FEW: Broin, Brodl receive awards in St. Louis

By Holly Jessen | June 10, 2010
Posted June 15, 2010

Two industry leaders were recognized at the 2010 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in St. Louis on June 15. Jeff Broin, CEO of Poet LLC, was presented with the High Octane Award for his pioneering vision, leadership and unstoppable pursuit of industry growth, and Gunter Brodl, president of Vogelbusch USA Inc., received the Award of Excellence for his trailblazing leadership and engineering distinction in the global ethanol industry.

Broin is well known as the man behind Poet, which has 26 plants in seven states and produces more than 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol annually. More than 10,000 farmers are invested in Poet plants, 30,000 farmers deliver grain to those plants and 1,500 people are employed at the plants. In April, Broin announced that Poet would add 3.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol to its production numbers by 2022. During the same month, the company started a new national television advertising campaign.

Broin was introduced to ethanol when he was growing up on a farm in southeast Minnesota. His father, frustrated that the government was paying farmers to idle cropland, built a small scale ethanol plant to use the excess grain produced on the family farm. In 1987, instead of coming home from an auction with spare parts, the family mortgaged the farm and purchased an ethanol plant for $70,000. At only 22 years old Broin moved to Scotland, S.D., to renovate the plant, even living in it for a while.

"I'm humbled and honored to receive this award," he said during the award presentation in St. Louis. However, he went on to say it was really the Poet team that should have the credit. "I'd really like to accept it on their behalf more than mine," he said.

Award of Excellence winner Brodl established Vogelbusch USA, based in Katy, Texas, more 20 years ago. Since that time the company has designed North American ethanol plants that today produce 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol. The parent company began in Austria, in 1921, to develop and market products for yeast and alcohol fermentation.

Brodl came to live in the U.S. when the ethanol industry was in its infancy and has been working in that industry for the past 45 years. He was part of getting some of the very first fuel ethanol plants operating and helped introduce the industry to Vogelbusch's Multicont, a state-of-the-art continuous fermentation process. He has continued to work as an innovator of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly designs to improve ethanol production.

The ethanol industry got its start with the goal of replacing oil. Today, Brodl said, people are being asked to wear boots on the beach because there is too much oil. In the time that he has been a part of the industry he has seen ethanol face many accusations, many of them uncalled for and untrue. It's so important, he said, that the industry educates the public that ethanol is a good thing for the U.S. and for the environment. "We've got to do more to change public relations," he said.

Broin and Brodl join a list of FEW award winners that goes back to 2000. Last year Phil Madson of Katzen International was named the Award of Excellence winner, and Kathy Bryan of BBI International was the High Octane winner. In 2008, Dr. Jay Shetty and David Kolsrud received the honors and in 2007, Steve Lewis and David Kelsall were named.

In addition, two students were announced as the winners of the 2010 Kathy Bryan Memorial Scholarship. The long-time scholarship program was dedicated this year to Bryan, the co-founder of BBI International and Ethanol Producer Magazine and sponsor of FEW who died in October. This also is the first year that scholarships are being given out to the children of ethanol plant employees, with a special emphasis on those applicants who have plans to work in the ethanol, alternative energy or environmental fields.

Mary Krull, the daughter of Peter Krull, a plant manager at Valero Renewables-Albert City, Iowa, and Nicholas Ballard, the son of Kim Ballard, a process operator at Big River Resources LLC, Galva, Ill., will each receive a $2,000 scholarship, which will go directly to their schools. They were selected from more than 100 applicants representing 52 ethanol plants.

Krull is a 2010 graduate of Spencer (Iowa) High School. She plans to attend Iowa State University and major in chemical engineering. She wants to work as an environmental engineer, with an emphasis on water and soil quality. Ballard graduated from Galva (Ill.) High School in 2008. He attends Bradley University and is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering with a goal of working in alternative energy.