Business Briefs

By Tom Bryan | April 27, 2017

US Water Services cofounder retires 
Al Bly, cofounder and former CEO of U.S. Water Services Inc., has retired from the water treatment industry after 31 years. In a letter to current U.S. Water CEO LaMarr Barnes, Bly thanked countless people and called his career “an incredible ride.”

Bly cofounded U.S. Water in 1997 and played an instrumental role in its rapid growth over 20 years. His retirement comes two years after the company was acquired by Minnesota-based utility Allete in early 2015.

Among the many customers and friends Bly thanked were Fagen Inc. founder and Chairman Ron Fagen and ICM Inc. founder and CEO Dave Vander Griend “for putting faith in us during the ethanol industry buildout that helped push us to another level.”

McPheeters picked for Nebraska Ethanol Board
Scott McPheeters has been appointed by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to be the Nebraska Ethanol Board’s business representative.

McPheeters runs a family farm in southcentral Nebraska and is a founding member of KAAPA Ethanol LLC, the only farmer-owned ethanol plant in Nebraska. McPheeters currently serves on the KAAPA board of managers and on the board for a sister company, KAAPA Grains. He is also a current member of the American Coalition for Ethanol’s board of directors.

Nebraska Ethanol Board members are appointed by the governor to serve four-year terms. The eight-person board includes seven voting members—representing farming, labor, petroleum and business interests—plus a nonvoting technical advisor. 

Vander Griend gains seat in MOVES group 
Steve Vander Griend, the Urban Air Initiative’s technical director, has been added to the EPA’s Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator Review Work Group. His inclusion in the group gives the ethanol industry a voice on an assemblage that influences EPA emissions modeling. 

The MOVES Review Work Group was established by the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, which provides recommendations to the EPA. Vander Griend, who attended his first group meeting in March, is the only participant with wide experience in how ethanol impacts emissions. “I asked a lot of questions and offered ideas that hadn’t been discussed,” he said, adding that UAI later presented suggestions for ways to improve the data being used to assess ethanol in the MOVES model.

Bushmills joins Growth Energy   
Bushmills Ethanol Inc. has become the newest producer member of Growth Energy. The Atwater, Minnesota-based ethanol plant—a cooperative of 415 farmers—produces 65 million gallons of ethanol per year. 

“Growth Energy’s membership is comprised of men and women who are passionate about driving change in the ethanol industry, and committed to producing high-octane fuel that improves engine performance, reduces emissions, and saves consumers money at the pump,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We are thrilled to add Bushmills Ethanol to that team. I am especially proud to bring on a plant member from my home state of Minnesota, which is a national leader in ethanol policy and development, and ranks fourth among states in ethanol production.”

Shortline asRailroad asjoins MBA   
Minnesota railroad operator, Twin Cities & Western Railroad Co., has joined the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association as a vendor member. The Glencoe-based rail company and its affiliates, Minnesota Prairie Line and Sisseton Milbank Railroad Co., operate approximately 350 miles of railroad track in west-central Minnesota and eastern South Dakota. The company's shipments are primarily comprised of agricultural products as well as ethanol.

“We appreciate that the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is dedicated to supporting and representing the renewable fuels industry in Minnesota, and we are pleased to join the association in support of our ethanol shipping customers and the communities we serve,” said Mark Wegner, president of TC&W.

Nebraska Corn Board thanks White    
Robert White, the Ren-ewable Fuels Association’s vice president of industry relations, has been awarded the Nebraska Corn Board’s 2017 Ethanol Industry Appreciation Award for his efforts to grow ethanol markets and expand demand for higher blends. Notably, White is the first non-Nebraskan recipient of the Ethanol Industry Appreciation Award, which has been handed out annually since 2007.

White works with fuel retailers and other stakeholders to grow the use of renewable fuels, particularly the adoption of E15.

“I have the unique privilege of interacting with farmers daily, and enjoy the relationships that have developed over the years working together to expand the market for corn and ethanol,” he said. “Thank you again for this treasured award.”

NCERC names new research director
The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has named Yan Zhang director of research. Zhang will provide scientific and technical services for client- and grant-funded research projects at NCERC’s pilot plant and laboratories.

“Yan’s background in analytical chemistry, built upon more than two decades of experience working in the environmental, biofuels and pharmaceutical industries, provides her an indispensable foundation to understand and quantify the myriad biochemical conversions that  occur during the production of biofuels,” NCERC Executive Director John Caupert said.

Yan was previously employed at NCERC from 2003 through 2012, spending the past five years as an analytical chemist for a biopharmaceutical company in St. Louis.

Yeast maker opens new tech branch 
AB Mauri has launched a new division, dubbed AB Biotek, specializing in fermentation science and yeast innovation. The new branch will develop specialty yeast solutions for biofuels, beverage alcohol, and animal and human nutrition.

“AB Mauri has a long history of providing leading-edge products to industrial customers outside of the bakery markets in other parts of the world,” said Greg Strauss of AB Biotek North America. “Now, with AB Biotek, we have a dedicated team focused on delivering high-quality products and solutions, coupled with superior technical collaboration.

The company has extensive yeast production capabilities worldwide, and its North American hub in St. Louis has a lab that provides yeast and fermentation diagnostics.

DSM opens new biotech R&D hub  
Royal DSM has opened a new biotechnology facility on its sprawling Delft, Netherlands, campus. The Biotechnology Center will accelerate DSM's biotech R&D work in food and nutrition, feed, fuel, pharma and biobased materials.

The project is part of a $100 million-plus investment by DSM to build up its R&D capabilities. The center houses over 400  experts under one roof and builds on DSM’s 150-year history of fermentation and biotech innovation. Science performed there will support DSM’s food specialties, biofuels and biobased products lines. The Delft campus is home to the company’s Bioprocess Pilot Facility and its Biobased Products and Services group, the branch of DSM engaged in a joint venture with Poet to commercialize cellulosic ethanol.

Butamax buys Kansas plant 
Butamax Adv-anced Biofuels has acquired Nesika Energy LLC, a 10 MMgy corn ethanol plant in Scandia, Kansas. The joint venture between BP and DuPont will immediately begin the detailed engineering work to add bioisobutanol capacity to the small facility. Nesika officials reported that the plant will retain its name while continuing to produce ethanol before and after the retrofit. The plan is to use the facility as a commercial demonstration plant to prove out Butamax’s technology before licensing it broadly.

Dev Sanyal, BP’s chief executive of alternative energy, said, “We invest in renewables where we believe we can build commercially viable businesses at scale, and this project … is another important step in that direction.”

Calgren to add biodiesel production   
A southern California ethanol plant will soon add on-site biodiesel production. Calgren Renewable Fuels, in Pixley, already features an anaerobic digester that powers the 57 MMgy plant. Now, the integrated biorefinery plans to diversify even further by adding a unique biodiesel technology to its renewable energy repertoire.

The project is supported by a $3.6 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. Another $5 million from Calgren will be required to finance the construction of the biodiesel plant, which will be engineered and built by Jatrodiesel Inc. The plant will be similar to one already installed at CHS Annawan (Illinois). 

Veteran employments high in ethanol      
A new U.S. DOE study shows that America’s ethanol industry employs a much larger share of military veterans, relative to its total workforce, than any other segment of the energy industry. Nearly one in five ethanol industry employees is a veteran—18.9 percent—compared to a national average of 7 percent across all sectors of the workforce, according to the DOE.

Per 100 workers, the ethanol industry employs twice as many veterans as the oil and gas sector and nearly four times as many veterans as the coal and nuclear power generation sectors. Other renewable energy sectors, including advanced biofuels, wind and solar, also employ a relatively large share of military veterans.