Older Plants Give Us New Stories

Ethanol Producer Magazine's editor previews the publication's February issue, which includes stories about Greenfield Global's refurbishment of an idled Minnesota plant, Green Plains' ongoing transformation, and the industry's increasing use of data.
By Tom Bryan | January 27, 2022

It was a surprise in December when Greenfield Global, the largest ethanol producer in Canada, reached out to tell us its new U.S. ethanol plant—which is actually old but refurbished—is online in Winnebago, Minnesota. We covered the ribbon-cutting, and when Greenfield offered a more in-depth interview with the plant’s GM, we jumped on it.

You see, stories about new, or new again, ethanol plants are hard to find these days. They’re a throwback to an earlier time, 10, 15 years ago, when reporters with small notebooks and handheld recorders flocked to ethanol plant grand openings almost monthly. Those old stories were not full of technical details or real business intelligence. They were just earnest accounts of partnership, investment and opportunity told to small groups over the noise of rattling hammermills, buzzing centrifuges and whirring rotary drum dryers.

That storyline returns to us in “Winnebago Online.” While our access to Greenfield Global Winnebago was admittedly limited, being able to tell the plant’s story of renewal—even without going inside—was, much like the restart itself, rejuvenating.

From Greenfield’s southern Minnesota rebuild, we turn to Green Plains’ fleetwide reimagining, as the company moves into more involved and potentially more profitable forms of biorefining. While still focused on ethanol, the company is embracing its role as a disruptor in what CEO Todd Becker calls a renaissance of ethanol production brought on by new derivatives—protein, oil, clean sugar, high-purity alcohol and more. Becker provides candid details about the company’s ongoing metamorphosis in “Conveying Change.”

As producers like Green Plains and Greenfield Global invest millions in their production assets, they deserve reassurance that our nation’s renewable fuel standard is safe and being administered fairly, steadily and on schedule. In “Reflections from the Hill” we catch up with Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper, who weighs in on issues ranging from the EPA’s latest proposed RVOs to finding a regulatory solution to E15’s summertime woes and reestablishing FFV incentives in the context of climate change. It’s a lot to unpack, and Cooper does it adeptly in this timely Q&A.

Finally, flip back to the beginning of our feature well to read “Directed by Data,” a conversive dossier on the rise of data-driven process optimization. Ethanol producers started becoming more reliant on data six or seven years ago. Today, as new gains become increasingly harder to achieve, process analytics are almost omnipresent in ethanol plant decision making. Data, we learn, is no longer just helpful, but tantamount to new optimizations. 
Enjoy the read!

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor