EPA approves Efficient Producer pathways for 5 ethanol plants

By Staff | April 02, 2015

In March, the U.S. EPA approved five new corn ethanol pathways under the agency’s Efficient Producer petition process (EP3), including Heron Lake BioEnergy LLC, Heron Lake, Minnesota; United Wisconsin Grain Producers LLC, Friesland, Wisconsin; Guardian Lima LLC, Lima, Ohio; Mid-Missouri Energy LLC, Malta Bend, Missouri, and Green Plains- Atkinson, Atkinson, Nebraska. A total of 24 corn ethanol plants have received approvals under the new pathway petition process since it was introduced last year. 

The Efficient Producer petition process was designed by EPA to expedite processing of the large number of petitions submitted by corn starch and grain sorghum ethanol producers. When the renewable fuels standard (RFS) was established in its current form, the rulemaking grandfathered in the production volume of existing corn ethanol plants. To qualify for compliance with the RFS program, any new production above the grandfathered gallons must meet a 20 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction threshold when compared to the program’s gasoline baseline. The Efficient Producer pathway petition process is designed to aid ethanol plants in gaining pathway approval for expanded production above those grandfathered volumes.

The EPA provides an online GHG calculation tool where producers enter the bushels of corn ground, the amount of natural gas and electricity used in the process and the gallons of ethanol produced. The online tool uses previously modeled values for downstream fuel distribution and use and process emissions. The previous modeling done on upstream emissions for corn feedstock has been summarized as a GHG emissions factor of 9.73 kilograms CO2 equivalent per bushel of corn.

The GHG reduction levels for each plant given in the EP3 approval letter were Heron Lake BioEnergy, 20.1 percent; United Wisconsin Grain Producers, 24.6 percent, Guardian Lima, 20.9 percent; Mid-Missouri Energy, 21.3 percent and Green Plains- Atkinson 20.4 percent GHG reduction.

It had been expected that EPA would include ethanol producers using sorghum or corn and sorghum blends in this round of approvals, but all of the five approval letters specified the use of corn starch as the feedstock for ethanol production.

The five new plants join nine producers that were granted Efficient Producer pathways in December, and 10 facilities that had pathways approved in February. Plants that have approved Efficient Producer pathways are able to generate renewable identification numbers (RINs) for production volumes above those grandfathered under current RFS regulations.