FEW Technical Sessions Planner

FROM THE MAY ISSUE: The agenda for the world’s largest ethanol conference is, as always, jam-packed with relevant and intriguing panel discussions. Attendees will need to plan which concurrent tracks they’ll attend. Here’s the info.
By Ethanol Producer Magazine | April 18, 2018

While reviewing submitted presentation abstracts for the 34th Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, Tim Portz, conference planner for BBI International, noticed a strong theme: efficient production. That theme evolved into the event’s first Efficient Ethanol Production Seminar, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 11. 

 “It seems like each year a new topic will emerge that clearly has some momentum in the industry,” Portz says. “This year, efficient production jumped out early in the development process and we thought it was important to make all of that content available without sacrificing any of the other production centric topics our attendees have come to count on. We decided to bundle all of that content together in the Efficient Ethanol Production Seminar.”

The seminar is one of two June 11 preconferences at this year’s FEW, coming up June 11 to 13 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The other preconference is the traditional Ethanol 101, a primer for those new to the ethanol industry.

The main event kicks off at 8:30 a.m. June 12, with industry awards presented by BBI President Tom Bryan, a keynote address delivered by Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor, and a general session panel discussion. After lunch, the breakout sessions begin.

“I’m always amazed by and grateful for the sheer volume of quality content that the ethanol industry’s best thinkers submit for consideration for the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo,” Portz says. “This year, we received nearly 100 abstracts in the Production and Operations track alone. The challenge for our team is to figure out a way to get as much of that content included in the program as we possibly can.”

A solid pool of presentation options gives the FEW agenda its strength and relevancy. “This agenda process is a group effort and we’re thankful to have the continued support of some great industry folks who review abstracts every year, giving us crucial guidance on where to best place presentations,” Portz says.

“Ethanol plant teams looking to make an informed decision about new fermentation strategies or even plant expansions really need to give this year’s agenda a hard look. We were able to assemble some terrific, multidisciplinary panels that help teams build a decision matrix to reach a decision they can have confidence in.”

The conference again wraps up with its well-known industry tour on June 14. At this year’s show, the topics are vast and there’s something for everyone.

“The sheer volume of ethanol content available at this year's Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo is astounding,” Portz says. “We're approaching 150 presentations over the course of three days and there is truly something for everyone working at an ethanol plant, regardless of their responsibilities.”
The event is split into four tracks and again colocated with the National Advanced Biofuels Conference. Here’s what to expect.

Monday, June 11
Efficient Ethanol Production Seminar
8:30 – 10:00
Surveying the Untapped Potential for Energy Savings via the More Efficient Use of Process Heat
The ethanol production process requires enormous amounts of process heat. Saccharification, fermentation, distillation and downstream evaporation all bring with them heat load requirements. This panel will examine technologies and operations and maintenance disciplines that can ease these demands, driving down not only overall energy expenditures, but also the carbon footprint per gallon of produced ethanol, enabling producers to access low-carbon fuel markets and to obtain Efficient Producer status.

10:00 – 10:40
Exploring the Efficiencies Available in Ethanol Production by Leveraging Membranes for Dehydration
The momentum to deploy membrane technologies to more efficiently dehydrate ethanol continues to accelerate as the results of the industry’s earliest installations begin to accumulate. This panel will look closely at the success of the first installations of the technology and help attendees understand how membranes can drive down overall energy expenditures, while also debottlenecking production, allowing other yield enhancement investments to flourish. 

11:00 – Noon
The Energy Efficiency Argument for On-Site Power Production at Ethanol Plants
Presenters in this panel will assert that, because of their massive heat load and electrical demands, ethanol plants are great candidates for combined-heat-and-power installations. This discussion promises to help attendees understand why these technologies weren’t deployed at ethanol plants during the industry’s build-out, and why changes in key energy commodity marketplaces and downstream ethanol markets have created an environment where CHP deployments deserve a second look.  

1:30 – 3:00
Wringing the Energy Waste from Your Plant’s Water Program
As plant operational teams continue to drive efficiencies into their facilities and ramp up production, enormous pressure is placed on installed water cooling infrastructure. For some facilities, summertime water cooling can constrain overall production. This panel will offer attendees a number of strategies to resolve this production bottleneck, reduce overall water cooling demand and allow for increased production.   

3:30 – 5:00
Towards the More Efficient Delivery of Common Process Heat Loads at Ethanol Plants
The financial rewards for plant teams that can deliver heat loads throughout their process with real precision are enormous. Presentations in this panel will highlight technologies with the potential to drive millions of dollars to the bottom line via decreased expenditures and increased ethanol production. Featuring presentations in both process control and hardware deployments, this panel will provide attendees with deployable strategies to drive excessive heat production out of their operations.

Tuesday, June 12
1:30 – 3:00
Predicting the Potential for Success from New Production Approaches by Using Well-Designed Trials and Simulations
Ethanol producers enjoy great variety in their options for enzymes and yeast choices, and greater still are the options available to producers to expand their operations via an altogether new production process. The challenge for producers now lies in making informed decisions about which option to choose. This panel narrows its scope to fermentation and looks to offer attendees a way forward to decisions based on well-considered plant trials paired with an informed understanding of how lab-scale results do and don’t translate once deployed at full operational scale.

Why Uncovering and Expanding Upon Employee Job Skills is Vital for Ethanol Plant Management Teams
Best-in-class plant management teams know that investments in staff development compound and yield real dividends quarter after quarter. This panel will feature presentations on the latest platforms available to producers to deliver valuable training to their teams, but will take the conversation a step further by exploring the role digital badges are beginning to play in helping management teams and direct supervisors more quickly identify areas of proficiency and areas in need of further training. Finally, the conversation will explore the role that quality, job-specific skills training can play in plant retention efforts. 

Towards a Better Line of Sight on Corn Oil Extraction Approaches and Overall Yield
Increased revenues from corn oil extraction have led to increased research efforts in pathways and more efficient extraction approaches within the ethanol production process. This panel will look closely at the state of play within corn oil extraction, featuring both a comprehensive overview at the capture rates the industry is achieving, as well as a deep dive into some emerging technologies promising even greater oil capture ratios. The panel will be anchored by a presentation making an argument for greater accuracy in captured oil measurement and a platform from which that can be accomplished.

Where and How Ethanol is Gaining a Foothold in Foreign Markets   
With the specter of RFS or RIN reform once again dominating industry conversations, the interest in establishing and growing foreign markets for ethanol has never been higher. Industry trade groups and our commodity partners are all hard at work to blaze a trail for ethanol sales in markets around the world. The dynamics of growing demand for ethanol in markets like Mexico, India and China all unfold against a backdrop of an administration keen on recalibrating the country’s trade relationships. This panel will offer attendees updates on the most promising near-term opportunities for increased foreign sales.

We Can’t Stop Now: The Critical Necessity of Robust Policy Advocacy for Advanced Biofuels   
To fulfill the promise of the Renewable Fuel Standard, another 20 billion gallons of renewable biofuel production capacity will have to be developed, funded and come online. Without policy certainty, this task begins to look Herculean. This panel, populated with executives from next-generation producers paired with leadership from the trade groups that represent them, will explore where the advanced biofuels sector is politically, how its value proposition resonates with lawmakers now and which specific policy outcomes are vital to continued sector growth.

3:30 – 5:00
Strategies for Creating a Pro-Yeast Production Environment at Your Ethanol Plant
Ethanol producers know plant yield is tightly correlated to the environment they are able to create for their yeast populations. The elimination of inhibitors and the introduction of vital macronutrients are priority one for production teams and decades of experience have further refined yeast health programs across the industry. Still, production methodologies are changing and, with them, the environment yeast populations are expected to propagate within. This panel features the best thinking in yeast health for the operating conditions of today’s production fleet.

A Multi-Disciplinary Look at Plant Expansions and Deployable Strategies to Ensure their Ultimate Success   
The decision to go forward with a multi-million-dollar plant expansion project can occur only after satisfying a number of important production, finance and permitting stakeholders. This panel brings together experts from these important disciplines to help plant management teams devise a decision-making process designed to illuminate any potential shortcomings in a project under consideration. Using case studies to illustrate their points, these presenters will help attendees identify the pitfalls that, without sound analysis, could escape their attention and prove costly down the road.

Revenue Renaissance: How to Drive Even Greater Value into Your Plant's Coproduct Program   
The days of seeing ethanol plants as producers of ethanol and a singular coproduct are over. While distillers grains continue to offer financial rewards, the industry’s most progressive plants are pushing toward feed coproduct streams with even greater value than their current DDGS offering. This panel looks well beyond the coproduct offering so common within the industry now and toward a coproduct stream that captures and adds value through densification, the isolation of protein or yeasts, or potentially the production of altogether new products such as flavorings and fragrances.

Wednesday, June 13
8:30 – 10:00
Innovations in Yeast Strains Delivering Real Operational Performance Benefits for Ethanol Producers Today
As the industry matures and plant teams work to maximize the opportunity presented by their inbound corn streams, more and more is being asked of yeast populations. New carbohydrates are being targeted for conversion, and higher tolerance to common yeast stressors and greater flexibility for changing production environments are on producer wish lists. This panel will provide attendees with an opportunity to review the industry’s best yeast strain options for these desired capabilities.

Measure What Matters I: Data Capture and Analysis for More Efficient Ethanol Production
The first in a two-part series focusing on the role of plant data in operational decision-making will seek to establish the challenge of distilling enormous troves of data into more digestible, real-time guidance. These presentations will make clear that even greater production efficiencies are within most producers’ reach if they can commit to sharpening the focus of their data collection and analysis programs.

Maximum Margins: Financial Best Practices Critical to Capture and Maintain Plant Profitability   
Plant financial teams are charged with weaving a tapestry of profitability out of a tangle of commodities that often act independently of one another. While strong ethanol yield numbers can go a long way in delivering strong returns, without a well-considered margin maintenance strategy, strong production numbers aren’t certain to deliver desired levels of profitability. This panel not only promises a discussion about leading risk management strategies, but will also feature a discussion about the tools available to confidently understand the impact of those strategies on plant ledgers. 

Eyeing the Potential of Deriving Increased Plant Revenues from Protein Streams
The growth in global demand for protein continues to track upward with a growing population, and many professionals believe the ethanol industry is sitting on vast inventories of undervalued protein. Presenters in this panel will carry that argument forward and make the case for ethanol management teams to look hard at investments that promise to unlock greater opportunities in this promising protein market. Discussions will look at process approaches available to isolate these protein streams and the specific downstream markets anxious to welcome a new protein source to their feed marketplace.

The Economic Argument
for On-Site Biodiesel
Production from Plant
Corn Oil Streams   
While corn oil streams generate welcome revenue for ethanol producers who have invested in extraction, presenters in this panel will ask producers to imagine a corn oil program delivering even greater value via on-site conversion to biodiesel. This panel will feature technologies available today that, once deployed, bring the added value of converted corn oil back to ethanol plant balance sheets. Presenters will make the economic case that the further refining of corn oil is an opportunity not for some other marketplace actor, but for the ethanol plant itself.

10:30 – Noon 
Measure What Matters II: Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement Upon a Foundation of Data Analysis
This second part of a two-panel discussion on the capture and utilization of plant data looks both at methods for developing supreme confidence in the quality of inbound data and the ultimate goal of using that data to replicate the plant yields achieved by a production team’s best operator. Presentations promise to make a strong economic case for investments in data capture and analysis with bottom-line improvements that approach $1 million for an average-sized plant.

The Ongoing Effort to Curtail the Impact of Bacterial Infection and Biofilms at Ethanol Plants
The ethanol industry is well seasoned in the ongoing art of controlling bacterial infections at plants, but the science of the practice continues to evolve. This panel will provide attendees with the latest thinking in microbial control, what makes them resistant to antimicrobials and the growing understanding of how biofilms form and contribute to the antibiotic resistance of some bacterial populations. The impact of unchecked biofilm on plant yields and operational uptime will be articulated so attendees can better understand the economic argument for their aggressive control.

No Fermentation without Taxation: A Review of Important Tax Policy Issues for Ethanol Producers
As promised, the Trump administration wasted little time in moving on comprehensive tax reform, and a thorough understanding of what they mean for ethanol plants and their investors is critical for plant financial teams. Speakers will outline in detail the opportunities to drive down the overall tax liability for ethanol plants, as well as the near-term saving opportunities for individual investors. Populated with the industry’s most recognized names in accounting and tax guidance, the discussion promises attendees an opportunity to ensure their tax strategy maximizes the opportunities that shook out in the first real tax reform package in decades.

The Correlation Between Inbound Corn Quality, Overall Ethanol Yield and Your Plant’s Bottom Line   
While there is broad agreement that corn quality impacts both ethanol yield and coproduct quality, the extent of the impact is less well-understood. The presentations in this panel will allow attendees to catch up on the latest thinking about the impact of corn quality on the industry generally and individual plants specifically. Informed by research from industry trade groups, agricultural research universities and industry benchmarking analysis, this panel will assert that while producers must work with the corn available to them, they can have a better understanding of what they might expect operationally from feedstock with dynamic quality profiles.

Innovations in Biological Pathways to Advanced Biofuels   
The production of next-generation biofuels likely will rely on the same microorganisms upon which the first generation of production was built: enzymes and yeasts. The difference, of course, is in the sophistication of these enzymes and yeast strains and their ability to unlock and eventually ferment more complex carbohydrate chains than their first-generation counterparts. This panel will provide attendees with an opportunity to review the leading next-gen enzyme and yeast developments aimed at speeding next-gen commercialization efforts.

1:30 – 3:00
Strategies for Keeping Your Plant Perfectly Aligned with Environmental Regulations
This panel discussion begins with a broad overview of the most common NOVs (Notice of Violation) experienced by ethanol producers, and then narrows its focus to the control of air emissions. Underpinning any good air emissions control program is a robust maintenance program designed to ensure that air pollution control assets are performing at their maximum efficacy. Special emphasis will be given to stack testing methodologies with an eye on streamlining a regulatory requirement that can trip up even the most experienced compliance professionals.

Employee Training as a Means to Improved Plant Culture, Performance and Staff Retention
Without a motivated and skilled team running it, an ethanol plant will not deliver the kind of financial returns its owners and investors expect. This panel will explore strategies to inspire plant teams to new levels of commitment and proficiency, offering specific guidance on achieving a workplace culture that can seem elusive. Beginning with a discussion about accountability and trust, panelists will offer attendees a road map for developing a plant team unified in its mission and well-positioned to achieve ambitious operational and financial goals.

How FSMA Preparation Should Impact Your Facility’s Operations and Maintenance Programs
Beginning in September of 2017, ethanol producers fell under the purview of the Food Safety Modernization Act and, this September, producers will be expected to ramp up and deploy preventative controls at their facilities. This panel will walk attendees through the looming requirements and clearly outline the steps they’ll have to take to comply. A presentation from a leading cleaning and sanitizing products provider will put attendees at ease if they have questions about residue migration and FSMA compliance.

Beyond the Blend Wall: Examining the Industry's Leading Strategies to Push Toward Higher Ethanol Inclusion Rates       
In 2017, the nationwide ethanol average inclusion rate eclipsed 10 percent, a major milestone for an industry eyeing even greater market share in the liquid fuel marketplace. The road to higher inclusion rates, however, is beset with a number of policy and regulatory entanglements, and the industry is working hard to overcome each of them in turn. This panel will lay out the impediments to increased market access for mid- and high-level ethanol blends and the market opportunity that awaits if they can be overcome.

An Update on the Technologies Shaping the Next Chapters in Biofuel Production   
One of the most interesting aspects of next-generation biofuel production is the promise of decoupling biofuel production from a short list of grain inputs and significantly growing the roster of feedstocks available for conversion. While first-generation biofuels added value to two main grain inputs, next-generation biofuel production holds promise for a number of sectors with a glut of low- or negative-value material. Two presentations will remind attendees that opportunity lies wherever sugars can be found, while another looks closely at the state of municipal waste streams as a viable input for biofuel and biochemical production.

3:30 – 5:00
How to Drive Greater Efficiency into Your Plant’s Water Program
The use and treatment of water at ethanol plants is an energy- and hardware-intensive process, introducing the potential for inefficiencies and increased production costs across the production platform. This panel will offer a comprehensive overview of the lifecycle of water within an ethanol plant, introducing energy-saving approaches in steam production, dehydration and cooling. Water discharge will also be given attention and an argument for a migration to Zero Liquid Discharge operating platform will be made.

Perspectives on Satisfying the Return Aspirations for Plant Investors, Shareholders and Plant Employees
As the ethanol industry reaches maturity, individual plants are increasingly finding themselves at a financial crossroads. Some early investors may be looking to cash out of their now decade-old investment, while others are clearly interested in doubling down and expanding on their initial investment. Satisfying the aspirations of a diverse investor roster requires significant financial dexterity and thoughtful planning. This panel will help management teams satisfy their investors, whether those investors are ready to exit now or are hungry for a new era of investment and returns.

Positioning Your Plant to Maximize the Opportunity Created by Low-Carbon Fuel Markets   
Producers already engaged in the low carbon fuel market and producers weighing the benefits and pursuing pathways will each find value in the presentations within this panel. The panel features discussions about the program and the market opportunity it can create for producers, as well as the planned changes to the program scheduled for near-term implementation, including a third-party verification step that producers engaged in the market will need to comply with as early as next year.

The Work Underway to Leverage Fuel Quality Requirements for Greater Benefit for Ethanol Producers   
While the Xs and Os of fuel quality specifications, how they are determined and how they are updated may elude the majority of the ethanol industry’s rank and file, they have a very real impact on efforts to establish new markets and grow existing ones. This panel will feature the industry professionals sitting at the fuel specification table discussing what they see as a crucial piece of the sector’s growth strategy. Presenters will make a compelling case that without continued vigilance and action, fuel specifications could become an unwelcome bottleneck in key markets.

Tracing the Commercialization Pathway of Leading Corn Fiber-to-Ethanol Technologies   
While there is nearly unanimous consent within the industry that corn fiber represents the corn ethanol industry’s most promising pathway to cellulosic gallons, opinions vary on the best process pathway available to producers. This panel will provide attendees with a comprehensive overview of the corn fiber technologies under development, the arguments for their varied approaches and the commercialization and deployment progress each has achieved in the past year.