Over 1000 attend International Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Springfield, Ill.

World's largest ethanol industry event draws delegates from 22 nations
By Tom Bryan | July 01, 2002
For almost three years, Olaoluwa Bamikole had been trying to reach the United States from Nigeria to attend the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Trade Show (FEW). As a chemist and private consultant to the fuel ethanol industry in Nigeria, Bamikole was fascinated by the FEW's growing international presence. Not only was he interested in the production knowledge he could gain at the event, but also what he could share with others.

In 1999, 2000 and 2001, Bamikole's FEW travel plans were repeatedly foiled by visa problems. As the years passed, hopes of him ever reaching the conference were slowly wilting. Bamikole's persistence, however, had not waned.

Needless to say, when Nigeria's favorite ethanol consultant strolled into last month's FEW Trade Show and began exchanging heartfelt handshakes and hugs with his international colleagues, the event was already a grand success. Bamikole had finally arrived.

"It's better than I imagined," he said, when asked if the event was worth his persistent effort. "To finally be here. . . I am overwhelmed."

And you didn't have to be from Nigeria to be overwhelmed by this year's FEW.

Based on attendance, the FEW is now widely considered the world's largest ethanol industry event. From its modest beginnings as a small workshop 18 years ago, with 40 attendees and no exhibitors, the event has become an internationally acclaimed conference, drawing delegates from around the world to the Midwest each year. In addition to Bamikole, this year's list of attendees included representatives from China, India, Ukraine, Australia and 17 other nations.

Weeks before the 2002 FEW began, it was predicted to be the largest ethanol industry event in U.S. history. Attendance was officially pegged at 1044, up 300 from last year. Remarkably, the 2002 FEW Trade Show held a record 110 exhibitors, comprised mainly of industry suppliers and service providers representing every facet of the global ethanol industry.

"FEW attendance is growing at a rate better than 30 percent a year," said BBI International President Mike Bryan. "The event is sailing on a powerful wave right now, due to the extraordinary growth of our industry. In terms of attendance, we expect to surpass at least one major petroleum industry conference by 2004. Considering the size of the ethanol industry compared to the oil and gas industry, an accomplishment of that nature would be an important milestone for renewable fuels."

Angela Graf, BBI International director of conferences and international development, commended the many sponsors and industry partners that made this year's FEW a tremendous success. "Their support helps bring the event together year after year," Graf said. "It's a truly collaborative effort, and a real testament to the vibrancy of our industry."

A prolific agenda of presentations and breakout sessions coupled with ethanol plant tours of facilities that rank among America's best and biggest. Attendees toured Williams BioEnergy's 100 mmgy wet-mill plant in Pekin, Ill. on June 25, and Archer Daniels Midland's (ADM) giant Decatur plant on June 28.

A well-planned agenda
Thanks in large part to three ethanol plant general managers who made up the steering committee for the 2002 FEW, the foundation for a meaningful and highly interesting agenda came to life at this year's event. Randy Doyal of Al-Corn, Roger Burken, of Chief Ethanol, and Nate Kimpel of New Energy Corporation worked with BBI International in developing the agenda topics for the FEW.

"We faced a big challenge - and those gentleman helped us meet it head on," said BBI International Vice President Kathy Bryan. "We have a very diverse audience, ranging from people recently introduced to ethanol to highly experienced producers and very technical researchers. Also in recent years, there have been increasing numbers of international participants. Many thanks to Roger, Nate and Randy for their valuable input and knowledge."

Pre-Workshop Seminar
A crowd of over 200 attended the growingly popular Pre-Workshop Seminar June 25. Considered a special opportunity to learn the basics of ethanol production, the "ins and outs" of ethanol plant operations, and important factors for building an ethanol plant, the Pre-Workshop Seminar served as an important primer for those wanting to know more about the fundamentals of ethanol production and those interested in building an ethanol plant.

Boyd Ruppelt, a BBI International associate, presented a review of the basics of ethanol production, including a fundamental contrast/comparison of dry-milling and wet-milling in Ethanol 101: Ethanol Production Process and Common Operational Issues.

"Dry-milling is a fairly straightforward process, wet-milling is a totally different animal," Ruppelt said. "When considering dry vs. wet-milling you must consider capital investment, the complexity of your operation, the stability of your product markets and the experience of the ownership."

Ruppelt explained that the construction costs alone of a wet mill plant typically double that of a dry mill operation of the same size (e.g., 40 mmgy ethanol plant: dry/$45 million, wet/$92 million). However, the diverse product - and revenue - streams produced by wet-milling is sometimes a cost efficient alternative for producers with more equity.

Attorneys David Swanson of Dorsey & Whitney LLP and Bill Hanigan of Brown, Winick, Graves, Gross outlined the pros and cons of various financing structures in Options for Financing an Ethanol Plant: S Corp, C Corp, Limited Liability Corporations and Co-ops. Primarily, Swanson and Hanigan explained the LLC legal structure that has become very common among new producers in recent years.

"When I graduated from college 20 years ago, there were corporations and partnerships - it was that simple," Hanigan said. "In the ethanol industry, during the last 10 years, the focus has been on the farmer-owned cooperative model. The LLC structure we are seeing today is really a mix of the old benefits of both cooperatives and partnerships."

Hanigan also advised future producers to consider the importance of expanding the project's investor pool. "If you get $10 to $12 million locally - withing a 60 mile radius of your proposed site - I think you have pretty much tapped out you local market. That's why it's so important to expand your pool of investors."

Other presentations were made by BBI International's own Mark Yancey, who presented Points to Consider When Building an Ethanol Plant: Ethanol Plant Development Handbook. Step by step, Yancey walked future producers through the elements of consideration when building an ethanol plant: location, feedstock type and availability, water, utilities, infrastructure, freight, emissions, future planning and more.

Richard Hanson, general manager of Badger State Ethanol, discussed product marketing, including ethanol, DDGS and carbon dioxide. As more ethanol is produced in the United States, Hanson said, it will become necessary to develop new markets for ethanol coproducts.

"One key consideration is site location," Hansen pointed out. "Are you building too close to an existing facility? And will that affect your product marketing. . . And when you are planning for the permitting process, remember that it does not happen overnight. Sometimes permitting costs several heartaches - and headaches - before it's complete. Be prepared for it."

Jack Huggins, president of TJ3, Inc, also spoke at the Pre-Workshop Seminar, advising future producers to consider market consolidation and other alliances to get optimal prices for their products.
Andreas gives keynote address

Marty Andreas, senior vice president of ADM, presented a keynote address entitled "Agriculture Embraces Energy" June 26. Covering an array of ethanol and renewable energy-related topics, Andreas said ADM supports America's farmer-owned ethanol plants and plans to grow alongside these rural investors.

"Half the facilities in the nation will be farmer-owned by the end of 2002," Andreas reminded the crowd. "I think most of the new production will be dry-mills, and I think most of the DDGS coming from those plants will be sold domestically - not exported."

Andreas said the need for greater energy independence in America should drive the ethanol movement. California, he said, is an important part of that movement. "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." Andreas said. "That's how we feel about ethanol in California."

Television Show Taped at Event
Ag Day Network's "Weekend Marketplace" took center stage at the FEW June 26, when TV personality Al Pell interviewed three industry leaders on the developments and progress made in the ethanol industry over the past year. The segment was taped for broadcast on Ag Day Network's "Weekend Marketplace" morning television program the following Saturday.

Promising not to throw "Larry King-style softballs" at his guests, Pell posed thought-provoking questions to Bob Dinneen, president of the RFA, Bliss Baker, president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, and Richard Tolman, CEO, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

General session rolls on
Wednesday morning's general session proceded to include an important presentation by Novozymes's Starch and Ethanol Industry Technical Services Manager Larry Peckous, who took a step back in time to look at the series of incremental changes and steps that have affected ethanol production.

Kathy Bryan followed, recognizing and warmly thanking the FEW sponsors and industry partners.

Before lunch Wednesday, National Renewable Energy Laboratory researcher Cindy Riley, along with David Glassner of Cargill-Dow, and Mike Knauf of Genencor International, presented a fascinating package of information on cellulosic ethanol.

Dynamic breakout sessions
To popular acclaim, FEW breakout workshops began June 26 with Alcohol Level in Beer and Economics of Improving Yield, Ethanol Plant Expansions, Ethanol Research Pilot Plant: Vision and Status (of the Edwardsville, Ill. project), Emerging Uses for Biofuels, Fermentation Technology, Risk Management, Promising New Technologies, Distillers Grains/Cattle and Hog Feed.

Breakout sessions continued June 27 with Shop Talk 3: Controlling Process Issues, Plant Management: Managing Emissions, R&D: Emerging Technologies for Dry Grind Ethanol Processes, Feedstocks for Biofuels Production.

Bothast receives Award of Excellence

Rodney Bothast, director of the National Corn-To-Ethanol Research Pilot Plant at SIUE in Edwardsville, Ill., was this year's recipient of the Award of Excellence, in recognition of the significant contribution to the ethanol industry through research and technological developments.

Specifically, Bothast has been accredited with leading ethanol-related research teams that have made several pioneering discoveries, including the trickle ammonia process of drying grain, the first pentose fermenting yeast, and reduced energy costs for fermentation of alcohol.

"I was extremely honored to receive the Award of Excellence and I accept it on behalf of my many outstanding colleagues that make such an award possible," Bothast told Ethanol Producer Magazine after the FEW. "I was very surprised and appreciative to receive this prestigious award. I am looking forward to future interactions with the excellent people of this exciting and growing industry as I begin my new position as Director of the National Corn-To-Ethanol Research Pilot Plant at SIUE. Thank you all."

International presenters
Interest in ethanol is growing rapidly around the world. During World Outlook for Fuel Ethanol Production and Use, representatives from Nigeria and Ukraine discussed new developments fostering growth for ethanol production and use.

Along with Bamikole, Ukrainians Ivan Zholner, director of Ukrspirt, presented in depth updates on the nations' ethanol industries, respectively.

Industry Roundtable
After an afternoon of fun and relaxation that included either golf, sight seeing or activities at Knight's Action Park Thursday, it was back to business Friday morning.

Back by popular demand, conference participants gathered in Round Robin Work Groups and tackled the question, "What will the ethanol industry look like in 15 years and what needs to be done to support it?" The results from the discussions were presented at the Industry Roundtable.

The Forum of Futuristic Thinkers featured a panel consisting of process design companies, enzymes manufacturers, ethanol industry suppliers and service providers, government leaders and researchers, who responded to the issues raised by the morning Work Groups. The objective was to suggest resolutions and recommendations to further the growth of the industry (see "Thinking Ahead" sidebar).

"It is amazing to see this industry come together every year in such strong numbers - and with such passion," said Kathy Bryan. "You really get the feeling that the future of our industry is being mapped out right here in front of you."