FEW Features High-octane Line-up

This year’s International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo is in Indianapolis—a perfect place to examine NASCAR’s historic move to E15
By Holly Jessen | May 13, 2011

Less than a year ago, American Ethanol announced a six-year agreement with NASCAR, kicking off a high-profile marketing effort aimed at its millions of fans. At the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, set for June 27-30, conference goers will have a chance to hear more about that decision directly from the man behind the wheel of NASCAR, CEO Brian France, the grandson of NASCAR’s co-founder, Bill France Sr.

France and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis will share a keynote speaking spot the morning of June 28, the first full day of FEW. Directly following, a plenary panel including NASCAR representatives Mike Lynch, director of greening, and Eric Nyquist, president of strategic development, will dig into the details of how the partnership between stock car auto racing and American-made ethanol is a win from start to finish. “There’s no sport more American than NASCAR and there’s no fuel more American than ethanol,” Buis tells EPM. “So that fit is just perfect.”

By the end of April, Buis had attended two NASCAR races, the first of the season at the Daytona International Speedway and a second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The American Ethanol brand is prominently visible at races, with more than 100,000 people waving green flags bearing the logo. For the viewers, television commercials promote domestic ethanol, such as one that features tractors rolling down highways from their farms to enter the race track. There’s also an American Ethanol in-car camera, which gets moved to various vehicles, providing even more visibility for ethanol. No less significant is the fact that every vehicle on the track uses E15. “Every weekend in victory lane is a car powered by American ethanol,” Buis says.

American Ethanol also holds promotional events, where race fans learn more about the fuel from farmers and those involved in the ethanol industry. American Ethanol also has spokespeople in race car drivers Kenny Wallace and Clint Bowyer. Promoting E15 is easy, Bowyer tells EPM, because it’s such a great product. “I’m from the Midwest,” he says. “I’ve seen the impact that it’s made throughout the Midwest.”

Other Highlights
Although racing will be a big part of the 27th annual FEW, it won’t be the only game in town. The plenary session on day two of FEW includes some big names as well. First, Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association will give attendees a legislative update, speaking about broadening the industry’s scope. Following will be a plenary panel titled “Forming a Voice for the Next Generation of Ethanol Production.” Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, will moderate the panel that will include Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer and vice president of government affairs, Coskata Inc.; Bill Brady, president and CEO, Mascoma Corp.; and John McCarthy, president and CEO, Qteros Inc., all founding members of the newly formed group. “The advanced and cellulosic ethanol industry has finally come together, but now is the time for the entire biofuels industry to speak with one voice,” Bolsen says. “With enduring support, advanced biofuels will create jobs, help reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil, lower greenhouse gas emissions and help reduce the federal trade deficit.”

RFA and a group of companies in the advanced ethanol arena announced formation of the AEC in February. The group, whose founding members also include Abengoa Bioenergy Corp., BlueFire Renewables, Enerkem Inc., Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc., Inbicon A/S, Iogen Corp. and Osage Bio Energy LLC, will zero in on commercializing advanced ethanol. “American ethanol production is one of the most dynamic industries anywhere in the world,” Dinneen says. “The innovative companies founding the AEC are leading the evolution of domestic ethanol production to include a vast array of feedstocks. The RFA is proud to join with the members of the AEC and continue its work building a bigger and broader American ethanol industry.”

The afternoons of June 28 and 29 will be jam-packed with useful information in four areas: production, management, cellulosic ethanol and coproducts/product diversification. Attendees can either select the track that most interests them and sit in from the first panel presentation to the last, or pick and choose among the various presentations. In all, more than 80 speakers have been selected to give presentations, with more being added to the list as the event approaches.

Matt Henry, an environmental engineer with Pinnacle Engineering Inc., will speak on compliance during a panel presentation in the management track. He’ll be covering the differences and similarities between OSHA’s Process Safety Management program and the U.S. EPA’s Risk Management Program. As a past FEW attendee, Henry points out that even though the event is only for a few days, it’s a great place to learn about many up-and-coming issues in a short period of time. “I always find FEW to be a very compact source of information,” he tells EPM.


Fruit of the Fiber
As has been true for many years, cellulosic ethanol is one of the hottest topics at FEW. One of the many speakers to tackle that subject is Sabrina Trupia, an assistant director of biological research at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center, who will speak on a panel called “Breaking the Feedstock Code: Pathways to Cellulosic Ethanol from New Inputs.”

Trupia will present the findings of three years of research to characterize, saccharify and ferment corn kernel fiber. The goal is to help producers add cellulosic ethanol production at existing corn ethanol plants by fractionating the corn at the front end and using the fiber as an additional feedstock. “The idea of our research is, let’s look at the easiest cellulosic material to get, from existing ethanol production and then move forward,” she says, adding that producers could later add corn stover and corn cobs to their feedstock repertoire.

The research is ready to move past the bench scale for optimization, she says. NCERC, which is a non-profit organization with the goal of helping the ethanol industry, is interested in developing a protocol that all ethanol producers could use to make additional fuel from corn fiber.  “The next step we are hoping to get funded is a scale-up procedure,” she says.

Another area of research is pretreatment to access the sugars in corn fiber. NCERC has studied pretreatment procedures such as steam explosion, dilute acid pretreatment, liquid ammonia soaking, caustic pretreatment and lime pretreatment. Dilute acid pretreatment came out on top, resulting in about 75 percent liquefaction of the total mass as well as complete saccharification of the hemicellulose component while allowing for the highest degree of cellulosic enrichment. The other methods of pretreatment resulted in up to 60 percent of mass liquefaction and rendered cellulose component digestible by commercial cellulases, she says.


Coproducts Advance
A coproduct that’s getting a lot of attention right now is zein. Douglas Tiffany, assistant extension professor at the University of Minnesota, will talk about zein in a panel presentation called “High-Value Coproducts from Ethanol Sidestreams.” There’s a market for zein in food preservation—it can be sprayed on fruits or vegetables to keep them fresh. The question is whether zein from DDGS can break into that existing market, Tiffany says.

In the past, ethanol plants produced only two products: ethanol and DDGS. With a technology developed by Pavel Krasutsky, program director of the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, heated ethanol can be leached through distillers grains, resulting in zein and other coproducts. The alcohol pulls out corn oil, which can then be diverted to biodiesel production. The process also pulls out solubles, which contain a fair amount of glycerin and can be converted by bacteria into additional ethanol. “In terms of products to be sold, an additional 10 percent ethanol and 10 percent biodiesel or jet fuel beyond the amount of ethanol already recovered from starch fermentation can be sold from every bushel of corn processed,” he says, adding that the additional ethanol from glycerin should be considered an advanced biofuel.
Not only does the method remove all traces of antibiotics used in the ethanol process, but it leaves behind a high-protein DDG product. Typically DDG is 28 percent crude protein, Tiffany says, but this back-end process results in DDG protein concentrated to 34 percent. With tight margins due to high-price corn, this extraction process would help ethanol producers get more out of every bushel of corn. “Research results suggest that as little as 1 percent of the ethanol used in extraction is lost in the process, residing mostly in the high protein feed,” he says. 

The research group he is part of is now working with Crown Iron Works Co. to take what was learned in the lab and see how it will perform at a bigger scale. In addition, a substantial amount of the high protein DDG was made available for different livestock feeding trials. By the time FEW rolls around, Tiffany hopes to have more solid numbers to report on the extraction research and feeding trials, he says.


Other Events
While the education, networking and business opportunities at FEW are invaluable, the event is also known for its stellar entertainment. In keeping with the racing theme, it’s all about the brickyard this year. The brickyard nickname came about because the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was once paved in bricks and still has some bricks at the starting/finish line. NASCAR races were first held there in 1994 at the first Brickyard 400 and in 1996 driver Dale Jerret started the tradition of “kissing the bricks,” when the winning driver and crew pucker up and actually kiss the bricks at the finish line.

The FEW fun starts with the traditional golf outing, held this year at the Brickyard Crossing golf course, which has four of its holes inside the speedway and remnants of the old pit walls used in bulkheading around the lakes on the outside holes. 

June 29, the final day of panel presentations at FEW, wraps up with a trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, located within the speedway oval. The original hall of fame was established in 1956 but was only large enough to display a few vintage cars. The current museum opened in 1976 and has at least 75 vehicles on display at all times, including winning Indy 500 cars and a rare 1935 Duesenberg Model JN four-door convertible passenger car. Participants will also have the chance to do a lap around the museum track in a small bus and take pictures inside a real Indy race car.

On the last day of FEW, June 30, participants will be offered a tour of the Poet Biorefining plant in Cloverdale, Ind. The 90 MMgy ethanol plant is the company’s 27th plant, and first acquisition, that was retrofitted with Poet technology and restarted in late March.


Author: Holly Jessen
Associate Editor,
Ethanol Producer Magazine
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