FEW: Katzen makes yet another FEW

By Ron Kotrba | June 02, 2008
Web exclusive posted June 16, 2008 at 11:14 p.m. CST

As the 24th Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo kicked off at the expo grand opening, distinguished chemical engineer and longtime industry consultant Raphael Katzen and his wife Selma eagerly awaited entrance to the tradeshow floor. After the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Katzen, now well into his 90s, made his way up and down the aisles of the expo floor, shaking hands with all the familiar people he has met over the years.

Katzen, himself a former recipient of the FEW's "Award of Excellence," began working with cellulosic ethanol technologies in the 1940s. Much later in the 1970s, when the U.S. DOE was interested in helping to develop a fuel ethanol industry in the United States based on corn, the department turned to Katzen and his company Raphael Katzen Associates International for his acumen and breadth of experience. In 1997, Katzen and his wife sold their interest in his company, now called Katzen International, and started a small but active consulting company in Bonita Springs, Fla., where he still works today.

Katzen is retained as a consultant by Abengoa Bioenergy, for which Katzen provided the design of its cellulosic pilot plant in York, Neb. Katzen also consulted for Alico, one of six companies to receive DOE grant funding for commercial scale cellulosic projects. Alico has since pulled out of the project. At the 30th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, which was held this year in New Orleans, Katzen was honored by being given the inaugural Raphael Katzen Award, which recognizes outstanding individuals who have greatly contributed to the commercialization of biotechnology to produce fuels and chemicals.

When asked how many of the FEW events he's been to over the years, Katzen responded, "How many have there been?" Then he smiled and nodded, intimating that he's been to them all.