FEW around the corner

Fully 87 percent of the nation’s ethanol producing capacity is going to be in attendance at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Minneapolis next week, up 15 percent from last year.
By Susanne Retka Schill | May 25, 2012

We’re on the countdown to FEW next week, June 4-7 in Minneapolis, and it’s looking to be a great turnout. Registrations are ahead of last year’s pace, so by the time the last minute folks are counted we expect to top last year’s 2,000. We’ve got about 300 exhibitors coming. And what’s really fun to see is that we’ve got an impressive number of ethanol producers coming – fully 87 percent of the nation’s ethanol producing capacity is going to be in attendance. That figure is up 15 percent from last year, when 76 percent of installed capacity had representation at the event. (And considering that’s based on our map numbers, which includes a handful of plants that are permanently idled until we confirm that the plant has been dismantled – that’s darn near every ethanol producer.) And, we’ve got a number of international ethanol producers coming as well from China, South America, Europe and elsewhere.

When the FEW started 28 years ago, it really was a workshop, with a few dozen people in attendance. Now, it has a full program with 140-some speakers on panels organized around four major themes: management, production, coproducts and cellulosic ethanol.  While some of the panel presentations leave me in the dust, I’ve gotten a regular education from listening to industry experts on a wide range of topics. One of the main session panels will be of great interest – several experience ethanol managers are going to share perspectives on the industry post-VEETC.

Personally, I am also looking forward to Ethanol 101. At earlier FEWs, it was a popular preconference seminar aimed at providing a basic overview to groups looking at developing an ethanol project in their area. The corn-ethanol build out is over, of course, and cellulosic ethanol development is a different ballgame—at least at the moment. Yet, we believe there are a number of people relatively new to working in the industry who could benefit from an overview of the history, the process, economics and politics. It will be a smaller group hearing presentations from industry veterans. I’m looking forward to filling in some of the gaps in my ethanol industry knowledge.

It’s a great event to meet old friends and make new ones, to learn and network. For those of us working on the magazine, it’s a great time to fill the well of story ideas and meet the folks face to face whom we’ve talked to on the phone. We’d love to visit with you if you have an idea for a story, feedback on things you like or don’t like in the magazine or our industry coverage, or just to chat. See you in Minneapolis.