Grit and Growth

For U.S. ethanol producers, the pandemic came on the back of an already challenging low-margin environment. Still, continued investment in yield enhancement, driven in part by yeast and enzyme innovation, is helping the the industry persevere.
By Lisa Gibson | December 28, 2020

Like the rest of the world, ethanol producers battled a tough 2020, with a global pandemic and drastically reduced fuel demand. But, unlike much of the rest of the world, they had a tough 2019, too, with low margins and oversupply caused by U.S. EPA’s careless small refinery waivers. Producers headed into 2020 with hopes for a better year, but their struggle was instead prolonged.

Here we are again, at the start of a fresh, new year and one for the record books behind us. Ethanol producers adapted to the environment surrounding them, and while that did include shuttered plants and slowed production, it also included diversification, investment in new pathways and exploration of new markets.

Those serving the ethanol industry with products and services stepped it up, too, seeing the need to evolve with changing strategies. Novozymes, for example, has tailored an enzyme/yeast package to suit both separate and in-situ fiber-to-ethanol conversion. Starting on page 16, we examine the Fiberex platform, which Novozymes says maximizes yield even for plants that aren’t investing in bolt-on fiber conversion processes. Ace Ethanol, in fact, recently switched to a Fiberex product for its D3MAX plant. Novozymes’ scientists are eager to continue rolling out new iterations of the platform.

Yeast and enzyme innovation is a theme throughout this issue, as we also explore an offering that expresses previously unseen amounts of glucoamylase, with a helpful boost to trehalase. Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits has released its Convergence platform, a marriage of the company’s yield enhancement and enzyme expression talents. Other yeast developers also are looking at enzyme expression, as well as glycerol reduction and robustness. Turn to page 22 to see where yeast innovation is headed.

In two challenging years, ethanol producers have shown their adaptability. They’ve excelled in the new markets they’re entering, while expanding opportunities to continue improving yield.

Ethanol Producer Magazine stands ready to step into 2021, with continued coverage of that grit and growth. This year, we hope the industry gets to focus more on the latter.
Stay safe and be well.

Author: Lisa Gibson
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