Channels of Change

FROM THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE: Editor in Chief Tom Bryan previews the October issue of the magazine, including feature articles about DCS replacement, dryer technology, policy and coproducts.
By Tom Bryan | August 24, 2017

Virtually every aspect of ethanol production has been made better by new technology, and distributed control systems (DCS) are no exception. In this month’s cover story, “Optimized Upgrade,” on page 16, we learn that ethanol plants running 10, 15 or 20 years on their original control systems are reaping immediate gains from quick DCS upgrades. As EPM Managing Editor Lisa Gibson reports, these systems are being installed with impressive speed—it takes just two or three days—by experienced integrators that make “one system talk to another” while replacing all or part of a plant’s existing control platform. The story includes candid feedback from producers who have recently experienced system overhauls, and helpful tips for those preparing to make the leap. 

We turn from improved technology to novel equipment in “Turning the Screws on Drying,” on page 24. In this story, Susanne Retka Schill introduces us to an emergent distillers grains drying system that’s catching the attention of U.S. ethanol producers. The story explains how Rayeman Elements serendipitously discovered, and ultimately developed, a method of drying wet cake at low temperature using steam from an extrusion-inspired compression process. Already, Lincolnway Energy, a 62 MMgy ethanol plant in central Iowa, is planning to employ the gentle, scalable drying process to manufacture a high-protein feed product. Other plants, too, are sizing up the system, which can be deployed in combination with existing gas-fired dryers to boost throughput. 

On page 28, we examine the impact and fate of the Farm Bill’s Energy Title, talking to policy experts about whether Congress will restore or even revamp the title before it expires next year. As Keith Loria reports in “All Eyes On Energy,” the Energy Title’s reach in bioenergy is deep, extending from blender pump funding to biomass crop assistance and biorefinery support. The current fear, real or perceived, is that spending restraint in Washington will leave the Energy Title weakened or stranded in 2018. 

Anchoring this month’s feature lineup, you’ll find “Variety In Value,” a story about the myriad ways value-added components can be derived from the dry-mill corn ethanol process. On page 32, Ann Bailey reports on how diversification can be pursued at different stages of production: fractionating the corn kernel on the front end or separating its elements within the thin or whole stillage. Ultimately, it’s all about breaking the feedstock into its basic ingredients—starch, fiber, protein and fat—to increase yield and manufacture higher-margin products.  

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief