EPAC hosts 17th annual conference

By Jessica Ebert | July 20, 2007
Over 100 people with some stake or interest in the biofuels industry gathered at Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, Mont., for the 17th annual Ethanol Producers and Consumers (EPAC) conference June 10-12.

The conference, themed "Fuels, From Farm Fields To Fuel Tanks," featured speakers from U.S. and Canadian academic institutions, and representatives from state and federal government agencies and the ethanol and biodiesel industries. Six panels covered the latest research and developments in producing ethanol from cellulose and unique food crops such as barley, wheat and peas; the nutritional value of distillers grains in the feed and food chain; financing a biorefinery; E85 infrastructure and flexible-fuel vehicles; and advancements in the production of biodiesel.

Speakers included Murray Burke, president of SunOpta BioProcess Inc.; Harry S. Baumes, associate director for the USDA's Office of Energy Policy and New Uses; Greg Krissek, director of governmental affairs for ICM Inc.; Jan Lundebeck, vice chairman of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co.; Phil Madson of Katzen International; Mary Beth Stanek, General Motors' director for environment and energy; Tom Verry, director of outreach for the National Biodiesel Board; and Robert White, director of operations for the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

In addition to an opening reception and speaker sessions, conference activities included a trade show with about 15 technology and informational exhibits. "We had vendors from all over," said Shirley Ball, executive director of EPAC. "It gave attendees a really good chance to network."

The 2007 Spirit of Ethanol Award was presented to Joseph Lacerenza, a Montana State University (Bozeman) student working on methods for converting small grains such as barley and wheat into ethanol. The award, consisting of a plaque and a gift of $100, was sponsored by R.J. O'Brien & Associates. Since 1991, EPAC has opened the competition to any student who has completed a project about biofuels within the past year. Each entrant is required to submit a one-page written application describing the nature of the project, the results and why a project in biofuels was chosen.

Conference organizers also provided ample opportunities for attendees to take advantage of the breathtaking landscapes of Big Sky Resort—nestled between the Gallatin River and the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Montana—including rafting and float trips on the river, and horseback riding in Gallatin Canyon. "We received a lot of compliments about the conference," Ball said. She said next year's event would be held near Glacier National Park in the northwest corner of Montana and that EPAC would push the date back to mid-July.