2002 Review-Professional Profiles

Several times a year, EPM presents Professional Profiles of some of the industry's best and brightest individuals. They are engineers, plant managers, operators, scientists, consultants, marketers, policy makers, investors, as well as ethanol and grain producers themselves. Some have finished distinguished careers, while others have yet to reach their prime. All are specialists in some way, and share a dedication to making the ethanol industry grow. In 2002, EPM profiled nine of these outstanding people, each a consummate professional who has contributed to the ethanol industry in a meaningful way. Selecting EPM's 2002 Professional Profiles was a contemplative task simply because there were - and are - so many deserving people to write about in the ethanol industry. Our selection criteria is discriminatory in just two ways.Those we profile must be passionate about their life's work and possess a certain wisdom achieved through experience. Simply said, EPM Professional Profiles are intended to provide our readers with a glimpse inside the minds of the people who make the ethanol industry's wheels spin. To say the least, we are grateful to those who shared their stories with us in 2002, and for that matter, every year since 1995. Here's a look back at EPM's Professional Profiles of 2002:
By | December 01, 2002
Bill Wells, Wells Enterprises International
In February, EPM profiled the charismatic Bill Wells, who had just moved from the U.S. to Australia and launched his own international ethanol consulting venture after working for ethanol plant builders Delta-T and Fagen, Inc., respectively, in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Wells made for an interesting profile because he has worked in nearly every aspect of the ethanol industry, including marketing and sales, construction management and plant management. He has been a member of the Renewable Fuels Association's Technical Subcommittee and he is a former board member of the American Coalition for Ethanol. On the other end of the policy spectrum, he was also a founding member of the Oxygenated Fuels Association, an MTBE advocate group.

Wells talked to us about his background and education in science (he holds a Ph.D in chemistry), the time he spent in the military as a young man, and the beginning of his career in oxygenated fuels. Talking about his early career, Wells told EPM, "I became enmeshed in public policy aspects of alternative fuels and knew I was hooked. As I became aware of ethanol for fuel, I became intrigued with this product that the rest of my colleagues considered the "enemy." I was backing the wrong horse in this fight, and when an opportunity came to move into the ethanol camp, I took it."

Mike Bryan, BBI International
In March, EPM profiled its own publisher, Mike Bryan, president of BBI International. Bryan, who has more than eighteen years experience in the ethanol industry, plus fifteen years in advertising and marketing, formed BBI International (formerly Bryan & Bryan, Inc.) with his wife Kathy Bryan in 1995. Over the years, the company has grown into an international ethanol consulting, publication and conference firm.

EPM traced Bryan's career in ethanol, which began at Alchem, LLP, in Grafton, N.D. "Alchem is where I cut my teeth, so to speak, in ethanol," he told EPM. "It was a small facility, and I was able to be involved in almost every aspect of plant operations."

By 1989, Bryan was working for the National Corn Growers Association in St. Louis. With the NCGA, Mike was the ethanol specialist responsible for international, federal and state projects. He was also a project manager for ethanol and corn sweeteners. During this time, Mike participated in international trade missions to Japan, Korea, France and Taiwan. He spent many days and weeks in Washington D.C. and worked on ethanol issues relating to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, and the subsequent Regulatory Negotiations.

"That was an exciting time in my career when the ethanol industry was quite young and we simply did not have as many friends as we do now." he recalled. "Of course, things are much different now - we have friends in the oil industry today - but back then it was just ethanol producers and corn growers on our side."

Gary Whitten, Systems Applications Inc. (SAI)
EPM profiled Dr. Gary Whitten in April 2002. Whitten, who was a chief economist for Systems Applications Inc. (SAI) in Point Reyes Station, Calif., has been involved in the field of gas-phase photochemistry for 40 years. Since our interview, Whitten has retired from SAI and started his own consulting firm.

EPM profiled Whitten because he is a leading authority on the fundamental reactions that occur in the atmosphere for many hydrocarbons, and their partially oxidized intermediates, oxygenates such as MTBE and ethanol. In simple terms, Dr. Whitten's work, physical chemistry, is the overlap of physics and chemistry - basically it is a science concerned with how fast and to what degree different kinds of molecules react in gas phase (in the air, essentially). The science often relies on computer modeling to predict outcomes, and usually compares the results to actual reactions in controlled environments. Whitten has been described by those in the ethanol industry as one of the "bright stars" that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relied on for air modeling research, such as the Urban Airshed Model, first developed in the late 1970s and continuously improved upon since then.

"There is a stronger need for energy independence in the U.S., and a lot of talk about sustainability," Whitten told EPM. "You even have some credible people talking about the end of the petroleum era now, so I think ethanol and other renewable fuels have a bright future."

John Murtagh, Murtagh & Associates
John Murtagh, an independent consultant in alcohol production with extensive experience in many countries around the world, was the subject of EPM's Professional Profile in May.

Murtagh currently consults for clients in Europe, North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Australia, in the beverage, industrial and fuel-alcohol industries. There are few professionals in the alcohol production industry who have had more auspicious and lengthy careers than Dr. John Murtagh. From England, to South America, to Iran, Murtagh's life's work has taken him to the furthest reaches of the globe. After 40-plus years in the alcohol business, he is regarded as one of the industry's foremost production consultants.

Recently, Murtagh's consulting assignments include solving fermentation and distillation problems, correcting equipment-design faults, conducting production-plant feasibility studies, project development, staff training, plant start-ups, performance testing, serving as an expert witness and conducting industry-privatization studies for foreign governments. Since 1990, he has been an arbitrator on the National Commercial Panel of the American Arbitration Association.

When we asked him about the U.S. ethanol industry, Murtagh said, "The U.S. industry is really coming into its own and obviously doing very well these days. I still believe in what it can achieve."

Ron Miller, Williams BioEnergy
In June, EPM profiled Ron Miller, president of Williams Bio-Energy.

Miller told EPM that he has always had a "knack for sales and business" that has undeniably helped him represent Williams Bio-Energy and the ethanol industry as a whole. Serving five years (1996-2001) as chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Ron holds the record as the longest serving chair of the ethanol industry's national trade association, a title that he sometimes jokes about.

"I had no intention of chairing the RFA for so long," he said in early June. "I'm just a bad succession planner, I guess."

In actuality, Miller stayed on as chair of the RFA for five years, because the industry was fighting - and winning - important battles, political and otherwise, on a national stage.

"As chairman of the RFA, Ron provided strong, steady leadership when the industry was at a crossroads. Thanks in large part to his guidance, our industry embraced a future of dramatic expansion, diversification, and cooperation," said RFA President Bob Dinneen.

Miller handed over the RFA reigns to former High Plains Ethanol President Gary Smith last year, ending an eight year run where Williams Bio-Energy executives held the top RFA seat (former Williams Bio-Energy President Jack Huggins was chairperson of the RFA before Miller).

"I enjoyed it very much," Miller told us, "It was a pleasure to take on a leadership role with the RFA. . . although," he added, "it is nice to go to meetings now and not have to run them. . . Gary Smith is doing an extremely fine job."

Kelly Davis, Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company (CVEC)
CVEC's Kelly Davis, who has been involved with the grain processing industry in ethanol production for the past 19 years, held the EPM spotlight in our July issue.

Her diverse set of responsibilities at CVEC made the profile of Davis one of the year's best. In addition to overseeing lab operations and product quality, she also administers safety and environmental compliance at the plant, which was undergoing an expansion to double capacity from 20 mmgy to 40 mmgy at the time of our interview.

Davis told EPM she considers herself a "technical trouble-shooter" with "analytical roots."

"I am expected to be a technical information resource at CVEC," she said. "And that allows me to take part in the research and technical world. I end up wearing a lot of hats."

Davis has been chairperson of the research committee on the Distillers Grains Technology Council and works with the expanded uses team of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

"I think I have really become a liaison between the politics and technical aspects of ethanol production," she told EPM. "Any one of these things can encompass my thoughts on any given day."
When asked about the industry, Davis said she believes the ethanol industry will continue to grow on the back of rural economic development issues."

Bob Scott, American Coalition for Ethanol, Ethanol Products
Bob Scott, President of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) was profiled in our August issue. Scott markets ethanol for Ethanol Products, LLC, an independent company based out of Wichita, Kan. associated with Sioux Falls-based Broin Companies. The company currently markets about 300 mmgy and will market 320-340 mmgy by mid-2003.

Like most other ethanol marketers, Bob serves a wide range of customers with diverse product needs, he told EPM. These buyers range from small jobbers (usually "spot sales") to the largest refiners in the nation (typically longer-term contracts).

Bob said his work with ACE is manageable because the group has a talented and dedicated support staff in Sioux Falls, led by longtime ACE Executive Director Trevor Guthmiller.

Richard Hanson, Badger State Ethanol, LLC
"After 20 years in corn processing, including 13 years in the ethanol business, Richard Hanson is a professional at the top of his game," began an article about Richard Hanson in our September issue.

Hanson is the plant manager of Badger State Ethanol, LLC, a 40 mmgy ethanol plant recently unveiled in Monroe, Wis. EPM profiled Hanson because he has a diverse background in plant construction and management. After 10 months in Monroe, working for ICM, Inc. on the plant's construction design and startup with ethanol plant builder Fagen, Inc, Richard smoothly transitioned back into the operations side of ethanol production in August.Hanson told Ethanol Producer Magazine "the ethanol industry will take you somewhere if you let it," and his career is proof of those encouraging words. The veteran plant manager has worked in nearly every type of ethanol production facility in the U.S., including wet-milling, dry-milling, small and large ethanol plants in both urban and rural areas, and in facilities relying on a wide array of process technologies and management styles.

Steve Markham, Commodity Specialists Company (CSC)
After trading commodities for 21 years, Steve Markham, of Commodity Specialists Company (CSC) had more than a few good words to say in our October issue.

"Be straightforward and honest with people. That's what it takes to succeed in this business," Markham told EPM. "In every profession, there are unsavory people who care more about what they can get away with than what is right. . . The only way to ensure longevity in commodities trading - or any other business for that matter - is to practice honesty."

Markham told us he has followed his own good advice and helped CSC become one of the world's most recognized traders of distillers grains with solubles (DGS), a coproduct of the ethanol dry-milling process. As expected, Markham had a lot to say about distillers grains marketing and its relation to ethanol production. At the time of our interview, he said he believed the future of the distillers grains market could not be brighter.

"Despite concerns, I think distillers grains markets will steadily grow at a predictable pace in the years ahead," he said. "Our growth will be methodical, yet rapid in the years ahead. . . The feed industry is interested in the least cost ration within the nutritional parameters (of the livestock they are growing). If distillers is competitively priced with other feeds, we'll have no problem growing and developing the market. Price solves everything, and we won't have to cut our prices in half to do it."

Markham also pointed to the forward-thinking research that is taking place at several Midwest universities, including the University of Minnesota, where Dr. Jerry Shurson and his colleagues are conducting monogastric (non-ruminant) feed research that is changing the way poultry and swine farmers look at - and buy - distillers grains.

"The truth is," Markham said. "Our industry is so far from saturating the market that it is unbelievable. The possibilities are staggering."