Vander Griend, Kohl receive awards at FEW

By Matt Thompson | June 11, 2019

Two long-time ethanol industry professionals received honors at this year’s Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Steve Vander Griend of the Urban Air Initiative, and Scott Kohl of Franzenburg received the High Octane Award and the Award of Excellence, respectively.

Vander Griend, whose experience in aviation propelled him into the ethanol industry in 2006, said, “I greatly appreciate this award.”

Since working with UAI, Vander Griend has been a strong advocate for ensuring test fuels align with real-world fuels. “I still remember, about 10 years ago, sitting down with Dave and showing him a paper by Southwest Research, how octane measurement and octane performance weren’t matching up when it came to ethanol.”

Vander Griend joins his brothers, Dave and Dennis, in receiving the High Octane Award. And he attributes his success, at least in part, to his brothers’ influence.

“I think I learned a lot from my brothers, especially Dave, Denny and Gene,” Vander Griend said.

That learning has been a benefit to the industry. One of Vander Griend’s nominators wrote, “No one works as hard or is more dedicated to the ethanol industry than Steve. He has made it his mission to learn and understand the technical and regulatory details related to ethanol. Very few people have the patience to dig into fuel research and regulation, but those details are impacting the long-term success of the industry. Without Steve's knowledge and willingness to ask questions no one else has, we are better positioned to remove roadblocks and see ethanol use expand in the future.”

Vander Griend is proud of the work that he and UPI have done, but he says there is more work to do. “I’m pretty proud of the studies we’ve done and the success we’ve had in our research. It all points to ethanol being very positive,” he said. “If we want to expand E15 and especially anything above E15, it’s going to require a more technical approach in some of our education as well.”

This year’s recipient of The Award of Excellence, Scott Kohl, was nominated, in part, for his contribution to ethanol education. According to one of his nominators, “[Scott] has been involved in training of new personnel since 2004 and has presented at over 30 trade training programs with significant presence at both U.S. and International alcohol training events. Scott authored the Ethanol 101 series of articles that were published from July 2003 to July 2005 in the Ethanol Today trade journal. These articles were updated and re-printed in August 2005 to January 2008. These articles are still today used by ethanol plants and engineering companies to help train new employees in the ethanol production process.”

Kohl said the training and writing he’s done for the industry took a lot of effort, but he’s happy with the results and feels good about doing it.

Kohl’s contribution to the ethanol industry, however, goes beyond education. Prior to his tenure at Franzenberg, he was vice president of technology and process improvement at White Energy. Before his work at White Energy, Kohl held positions at ICM, including technical director. There, he helped the company develop its selective milling and fiber separation technologies, among others.

“It’s nice to see person’s work turn into a real thing, an actual building, an actual structure…that’s nice and gratifying,” Kohl said. “But, I always say that what I’m going to remember more from those events are the people I worked with and the efforts that we did to convert something that looked, on the face, fairly trivial to do, yet required substantial effort to actually get it done.”

Of the award, Kohl said, “I’m humbled to receive the award, especially with the people who have received it in the past. It’s quite an honor.” And he urged FEW attendees to take advantage of the opportunities at FEW to learn about efficiency gains that can be made at their ethanol plants.