Business Briefs

News from the July issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine, including DuPont's new enzyme blend, the deferment of the 2020 Export Exchange, sequestration funding, monarch habitat, and Aemetis' and Pacific Ethanol's high-grade alcohol strategies.
By Ethanol Producer Magazine | July 13, 2020


DuPont announces new alpha amylase blend
DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences has announced the launch of Spezyme HN, the latest in the Spezyme line of alpha amylase enzymes, and a new inclusion in the suite of Xcelis Ethanol Solutions. The new blend—combining an alpha amylase with a thermostable phytase—was designed for ethanol plants operating under harsh conditions. “This is a significant development for the industry right now, particularly following the success of clean-in-place solutions that lead to lower cations in the ethanol production process, which has traditionally caused challenges for alpha amylases,” said Josh Naylor, marketing coordinator for DuPont Biorefineries. “Spezyme HN is designed to perform extremely well in harsh low-cation or high-temperature liquefaction conditions. This gives plants unprecedented flexibility in how they run their front-end operations.”

Export Exchange 2020 moved to 2021
Export Exchange 2020 has been postponed until 2021 due to international travel uncertainties. The U.S. Grains Council, along with event partners Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association, released a statement in mid-June announcing the event’s deferment. “As a result of the coronavirus and our concern for the safety of our attendees who travel from around the globe to come to this event, we’ve decided to postpone Export Exchange until the same time next year,” said USGC President and CEO Ryan LeGrand.

The biennial event is now scheduled for Oct. 6-8, 2021, in Kansas City, Missouri. Export Exchange brings more than 200 international buyers and end-users of coarse grains and coproducts—including distillers grains—together with about 300 U.S. suppliers and agribusiness representatives.

Research center awarded $500,00 for ethanol plant CCS
The North Dakota Industrial Commission, through its Renewable Energy Program, has awarded $500,000 in matching funds to the Energy & Environmental Research Center, for continuing work on the state’s first integrated ethanol plant carbon capture and storage (CCS) project. The research will use the Red Trail Energy LLC ethanol facility near Richardton, North Dakota, as a case study, building on the successful outcomes of three phases of work since 2016. A guidance document will be produced as part of the project, serving as a resource for other North Dakota biofuels plants interested in CCS.

Four years ago, the commission awarded EERC $490,000 to study the feasibility of CCS at Red Trail Energy. The initial round of work established carbon sequestration as an economical option for reducing the plant’s carbon intensity rating, which would position it to enter low-carbon fuel markets. At that time, a geologic formation, located approximately 6,400 feet below the ethanol plant site, was identified as the targeted injection point for potential geologic storage of the CO2. According to previous studies conducted by the EERC, the formation appeared to be an ideal storage target.

“This project continues to help maximize the marketability of North Dakota ethanol through evolving CCS incentive programs,” the commissioners said in a joint statement. The North Dakota Industrial Commission, consisting of Gov. Doug Burgum, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, oversees the Renewable Energy Program. The state’s legislature established the program in 2007 to provide funding for research, development, marketing and education to foster growth of renewable energy including wind, biofuels, biomass, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and hydrogen.

Based in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the EERC partners with industry to develop energy and environmental technologies. It is part of the University of North Dakota, but operates independently, much like a business.

SIRE starts expansion of on-site Monarch habitat
Having just passed the one-year anniversary of seeding its Monarch Fueling Station, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy recently began expanding its pollinator habitat to 20 acres. All of the acreage is inside of SIRE’s rail loop, which would otherwise be planted with grass.

“Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy is committed to finding ways to innovate and that commitment doesn’t stop with the plant itself,” said SIRE CEO Mike Jerke. “Creating habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators inside our loop track, with area we previously would have considered unusable, seemed like a great way for us to innovate the use of our land around the plant.”

SIRE began planning the project in 2018 and seeded seven acres last spring. Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Habitat Establishment Coordinator Kevin Reynolds helped SIRE start the project. “SIRE’s decision to expand their project is indicative of just how committed they are to protecting Iowa’s environment,” Reynolds said. “I have worked with several biofuel plants across Iowa now, and it is exciting to see the enthusiasm they’ve had for creating and protecting this critical monarch butterfly habitat.”

Several U.S. ethanol plants are hosting pollinator habitat on their properties, including Trenton Agri Products in Trenton, Nebraska, which won Ethanol Producer Magazine’s 2020 “Good Neighbor Award” (see page 32). Coincidentally, SIRE was awarded “Board of the Year”.

Reynolds said SIRE would have seen some greenery popping up among the initial seven acres last year, but most of the growth would have occurred under the ground as the plants must develop a strong root system. He said SIRE can expect the same growth pattern for the newly planted acres while plants on the original plot should expand above the ground even more this growing season.

Aemetis to produce pharma- and food-grade alcohol
Aemetis Inc. is taking steps to produce larger volumes of pharma- and food-grade alcohol for sanitizer products, while simultaneously moving forward with multiple advanced biofuels projects. Pivoting to supply alcohol for hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has continued to operate its ethanol plant in Keyes, California, while simultaneously moving forward with renewable natural gas and cellulosic ethanol projects. Now, Aemetis is upgrading the facility to make larger quantities of alcohol for personal care and industrial markets.

“To a large extent, the ability to continue to operate our California plant while fuel ethanol demand and price declined significantly during Q1, and then recovered recently in Q2, has been due to our rapid conversion of alcohol production to produce hand sanitizer alcohol,” said Eric McAfee, chairman and CEO.

Amid CEO succession, Pacific Ethanol focuses on high-end alcohol

Pacific Ethanol Inc. has announced a new focus on high-quality alcohol production while planning for leadership succession. The company’s board of directors has appointed current Chief Operating Officer Mike Kandris as co-president and co-CEO. Neil Koehler will retire as CEO and president Sept. 30.

PEI Chairman Bill Jones said, “Demand for high-quality alcohol, the primary ingredient for hand sanitizers and disinfectants, has grown significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As COO, Mike has been a dynamic leader and was pivotal in implementing operational efficiencies and logistical modifications that increased the volume of high-quality alcohol at our Pekin, Illinois, campus. We are confident Mike will advance additional initiatives and drive the next phase of our diversified strategy.”