First-Gen Adjustments, Second-Gen Developments

By Susanne Retka Schill | April 11, 2012

The ethanol industry broke some records early this year: record ethanol stocks were reported in the first quarter as well as a record spread between ethanol prices and gasoline for blending, with ethanol more than $1 lower. Those record numbers, plus negative margins and the looming blend wall, raise the question of what it might mean for the industry. Associate Editor Holly Jessen sets out to learn what the industry is saying and reports what she learns in her production feature starting on page 34. While no one has a crystal ball and many express concerns that the ethanol industry needs to make adjustments, all agree the industry has become much stronger in the past five years, since the 2008 downturn, and is applying the lessons learned.     

As the first-generation ethanol industry reaches maturity, the cellulosic ethanol industry is readying its commercial debut. In this issue, EPM Associate Editor Kris Bevill takes a closer look at several projects expected to begin producing cellulosic ethanol later this year, including a 13 MMgy facility nearing completion in Crescentino, Italy. Guido Ghisolfi describes the approach his family-held Mossi & Ghisolfi Group is taking to cellulosic ethanol.

For other advanced biofuel developers, a major hurdle to overcome is getting the feedstock of choice approved for the renewable fuel standard. Associate Editor Erin Voegele discusses the work underway to approve the pathways for three such grassy feedstocks: napiergrass, giant reed and energy cane. Jessen interviews several developers of yet another feedstock. While adding ethanol production capacity to sugar-producing plants has been a model in Brazil and Europe, the North American developers Jessen speaks with are looking at energy beets.