Versatile and Newsworthy

FROM THE FEBRUARY ISSUE: Editor Lisa Gibson previews the magazine, including feature articles about ethylene's diverse industrial uses, challenges to EPA's limitation of mid-level blends, retailer workshops in Nebraska, and more.
By Lisa Gibson | January 23, 2020

I’m pretty proud of our cover headline, “Marketable Molecule.” It’s catchy, sure, but it’s also true.
A quick drop of a water molecule from ethanol and you have ethylene, a chemical used as the basis of countless products and materials from synthetic fibers to plastics. Ethanol has a place in that market, and projects to take advantage of that opportunity are ongoing around the world.

In our cover story, starting on page 22, freelancer Susanne Retka Schill explores those opportunities and speaks with the developers behind the projects. Ethanol-to-ethylene can reduce the carbon footprint of plastics and packaging, reduce health impacts of cooking oil use in Africa, or create a more environmentally friendly jet fuel. The possibilities are truly fascinating.

Speaking of opportunities, the Reid vapor pressure waiver for E15 seems to have boosted summertime sales. But, most of us know it’s come with some problems, too. The Urban Air Initiative is sounding the alarm on the rule’s language and how it limits blends higher than E15. The rule also treats retailers with blender pumps as refiners, subjecting them to stricter regulations. UAI has been public with its actions on the rule, but seems to be standing alone among trade groups in this particular fight. Some experts in the ethanol industry say the U.S. EPA might not interpret the rule as a cap at E15, but UAI isn’t satisfied with that. “Simply hoping the EPA interprets the rule in a favorable way for ethanol is not a risk we are willing to take,” one source says. It’s an interesting read and it starts on page 30.

And post-E15 waiver, retailers are beginning to take notice of the blend’s benefits. In Iowa, four stations added E15 over the summer of 2019. The Nebraska Ethanol Board has begun offering free workshops to retailers in the state who want to learn more about the blend and what requirements they need to meet to sell it. With about 30 attendees at each of two workshops so far, the NEB says feedback has been positive and retailers have been most interested in infrastructure and equipment. Find out more about the workshops and hear from retailers who attended, starting on page 36.

Finally, this issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine delves into cyber threats. We talk to a producer who has been the victim of ransomware, actually paying the demanded amount to unlock and access his own data. Simple measures can expose a plant to cyberattacks, and the experts we talked to have suggestions to avoid them. It’s on page 42.

The marketable ethanol molecule brought us tons of news leads and hooks for this month. We sorted through them, and with the help of our editorial board, chose the most relevant and interesting from a producer’s perspective. It seems our little molecule is both versatile and newsworthy. Read up.

Author: Lisa Gibson