NCERC hosts Operators' School

By Michael Shirek | January 01, 2008
Ethanol Technology held The Operators' School on Nov. 13-15 at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center in Edwardsville, Ill. Aimed at operators working in ethanol production facilities, the course featured lectures and demonstrations of production and management techniques designed to yield the most efficient process possible.

According to Ethanol Technology Global Sales Manager Chris Richards, approximately 50 people attended, and all but four were from operating or soon-to-be-operating fuel ethanol plants. Richards said the turnout was strong, and the program was effective. "We put together two-and-a-half days of training, where the first two days were based on the process itself, right from grain intake and milling all the way through the dryhouse and dehydration," he said. "In each of the talks there, we attempted to take it down to an operator's level, where we could look at how operating teams affect profitability in each area and how they could improve efficiencies."

Presenters at The Operators' School included 2007 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop High Octane Award winner Dave Kelsall, Mike Ingledew of the Ethanol Technology Institute, members of the Ethanol Technology team, members of the NCERC team and McCord Pankonen of Documentation Specialists International Inc., a training product and consulting service provider. "Overall it went extremely well," Richards said. "We had a fairly detailed review sheet ranging from individual presenters to the plant visits that we had. On each day, we actually had either an hour or an hour-and-a-half visit to the plant, where we could actually see [it] running and working, and review the areas we just discussed."

Ethanol Technology designed the program for instruction at the operator's level, and the knowledge acquired at The Operators' School can be used to increase plant efficiency and hold up sagging margins caused by low ethanol prices and high corn prices. "The theme that went all the way through the course was ways that plants can make their operational side more profitable and more effective," Richards said. "When it comes down to it, an operating team can't really affect the incoming or outgoing prices of products, but they can affect how [the plant uses] them."

Richards called The Operators' School a big success and said Ethanol Technology is already preparing for the event in 2008. "We're very close," he said, when asked if any decisions had been made. Though nothing has been confirmed, Richards said the NCERC is again being considered. When the date is announced, registration information will be available at Ethanol Technology's Web site at