Business Briefs

Industry announcements from the November issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine, including the USDA funding of climate-smart farming push, Poet's carbon neutrality pledge, Red Trail's CCS activity, Verbio's conversion of a former DuPont site, and more.
By Ethanol Producer Magazine | October 13, 2021

USDA funds ACE-led project to help farmers access LCFS markets
The USDA recently awarded $7.5 million to a Regional Conservation Partnership Program led by the American Coalition for Ethanol. The program will help secure farmers premier access to low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) markets through the adoption of USDA climate-smart agricultural practices.

The ACE-led project will create a strong market-driver for progressive agricultural practices like no-till, cover crops, and nutrient management for farmers in the grain shed supplying corn to Dakota Ethanol LLC in Wentworth, South Dakota. Other partners include South Dakota Corn Growers, South Dakota State University, Cultivating Conservation, and collaborator Sandia National Laboratories.

The project will quantify the resulting soil health and GHG benefits, correlate them with existing models, and develop a non-proprietary verification system. This data will then be used to secure farmer access to clean fuel or LCFS markets—for the first time—based on the GHG benefits of USDA climate-smart practices.


Poet pledges carbon neutrality by 2050
Poet, the world’s largest ethanol producer has announced its intention to achieve net-zero carbon status at its bioprocessing facilities by 2050.

The commitments were made as part of Poet’s inaugural sustainability report, which outlines the company’s focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. Poet established several ESG goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70 percent, compared to gasoline, by 2030.

“Sustainability has always been at Poet’s core. We recognize that our planet urgently needs bolder solutions and better results if we hope to restore harmony between human and nature and sustain Earth’s fragile balance for future generations,” said Poet Founder and CEO Jeff Broin. “Now more than ever, it is critical that we embrace the bioeconomy, significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and harvest our energy from the surface of the Earth.”

The report’s initiatives include investing in new technology, advancing operational efficiencies and promoting a sustainable society through both Poet’s business ventures and its philanthropic endeavors.

USDA awards $25M loan to Red Trail Energy for CCS project
The USDA has awarded a $25 million loan under the Rural Energy for America Program to Red Trail Energy LLC to support the construction of a carbon capture processing and storage facility at the company’s ethanol plant near Richardton, North Dakota.

The 65 MMgy ethanol plant has been pursuing the development of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project for several years. The company previously submitted a North Dakota carbon dioxide storage facility permit application to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. If approved, the permit will allow Red Trail Energy to permanently store carbon dioxide captured at the ethanol plant in deep underground rock layers.

According to the USDA, the CCS project is expected to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) score of ethanol produced at the Red Trail Energy plant 40 to 50 percent and enable the company to sell its fuel into low-carbon fuel standard markets.

EIA: US nameplate ethanol capacity expands by 168 MMgy
U.S. fuel ethanol nameplate production capacity increased between 2020 and 2021 despite a slight decrease in the number of operating ethanol plants, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in September.

According to the EIA, U.S. is home to 197 ethanol plants, down from 201 facilities in 2020. Nameplate production capacity expanded to 17.546 billion gallons per year, up 168 MMgy compared to the 17.379 billion gallons of capacity reported for 2020. Ethanol Producer Magazine’s own plant data collection effort in September concluded that there is currently 17.467 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol production capacity. 

Most U.S. ethanol plants are located in PADD 2, which is located in the Midwest. According to the EIA, the number of ethanol plants in PADD 2 fell to 178 in 2021, down from 180 the previous year. Capacity in PADD 2, however, increased to 16.271 billion gallons, up 289 MMgy compared to 15.982 billion gallons in 2020.

Hayburn joins USGC as global ethanol program coordinator
Zac Hayburn has joined the U.S. Grains Council as global ethanol program coordinator at the organization’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. Hayburn will support the global ethanol team; organize staff and member travel; facilitate program planning, correspondence, reports, data and information management; assist in contracting; and make arrangements for visiting teams.

“I am excited to have Zac join our team,” said Brian Healy, USGC’s director of global ethanol market development. “His experience and positive energy will make him a great asset to our global ethanol market development program.”

Hayburn joins the Council from AmeriCorps, where he coordinated food supply shipments and created curriculum for in-class learning. He also served as a legislative intern following his time at Miami University in Ohio, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in international studies.

Hayburn moves into this role following the promotion of Joana Hassan to manager of global ethanol programs in June.

Verbio reports record revenue, provides update on former DuPont plant
Germany-based Verbio recently provided an update on its ongoing conversion of DuPont’s former corn stover ethanol refinery in Nevada, Iowa.

While reporting record sales revenue for the 2021-’22 financial year—attributing its success to favorable EU policy, strong performance within its biodiesel and ethanol segments, and robust demand for advanced biomethane—company officials said steady progress is being made in Iowa.  

Verbio reached an agreement to buy the former cellulosic ethanol plant from DuPont in late 2018. At the time of acquisition, the company said it intended to install facilities to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) made from corn stover and other cellulosic crop residues. In its latest announcement, Verbio said it is expanding biomethane capacity in the U.S. from 20 MW to 80 MW, and that biomethane production feedstocks will include both crop residue and residual waste from ethanol production.

The Nevada facility is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2022.