• The Conference

In your presentation during the 2018 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, you’ll be discussing how to implement an effective plant trial. Can you give us a preview of one or two of the most important aspects to consider?
In order to properly evaluate the success and potential payback of a trial, a plant must determine an appropriate and representative baseline. Although a certain degree of operational variability is inevitable because of upsets, shutdowns, substrate variability (i.e. new corn crop etc.), a plant trial will benefit from steady-state operation and altering a single variable at a time. Trial timing and planning to avoid changing multiple conditions will validate the introduction of new ingredients and chemicals or the modification of process parameters. Accurate and consistent data collection goes hand in hand with establishing this baseline, and monitoring the trial success criteria.

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits is a leader in yeast products for the ethanol industry, but what other areas of expertise will you draw on in your presentation? Can you give a few details on the company’s experience in those areas?
Ethanol plants are constantly innovating, adapting new products and bolt-on technologies to increase yields and diversify coproducts with improved margins. By pushing rates, new bottlenecks surface that need to be addressed to benefit fully from the technology. Lallemand has a dedicated team of technical services managers from the industry, each with skill sets developed through years of in-plant experience and knowledge of fuel ethanol plant designs including ICM, Delta T, Katzen and Vogelbusch. We draw on each other’s areas of expertise when visiting plants, assisting in troubleshooting fermentation, as well as front- and back-end unit operations. As an example, plant hygiene is increasingly being identified as a factor negatively impacting yield. Lallemand has a hygiene-audit team that visits plants to investigate areas of potential bacterial contamination. By removing deadlegs and making adjustments to their cleaning protocols, plants can improve their fermentation performance with minimal costs.

Can you give a brief overview of two of the performance metrics you’ll be addressing in your presentation?
Given the popularity of glucoamylase-producing biotech yeast (including Lallemand’s TransFerm product line) and new enzyme products to improve yield, conversion of DP4+ into glucose is closely monitored during the optimization phase of a plant trial. Improving fermentation kinetics is our focus when recommending recipe and temperature changes to a plant. We work closely with plants to ensure adequate enzyme addition to optimize ethanol production. If glucoamylase dosing is reduced too quickly or too much, incomplete sugar conversion could result in a yield loss, which may negate the benefits of saving on enzyme costs. But excessive glucoamylase can also result in higher glucose levels, which could be detrimental to the yeast. Infection can reduce yield, so a second performance metric we also closely monitor is lactic and acetic acid production. Following our hygiene-audit team’s recommendations, a reduction in delta organic acid production is expected to correlate with an increased final ethanol concentration.

See Murdy Speak On Tuesday, June 12 (1:30 pm - 3:00 pm)
Predicting the Potential for Success from New Production Approaches by Using Well Designed Trials and Simulations

In your presentation, you’ll discuss converting thin stillage to higher-value revenue streams. What products will you focus on and how do the markets for those products look currently?
Xylome has developed a new yeast fermentation for converting thin stillage into a palm-oil substitute that is suitable for both biodiesel and other consumer products. The commodity value of palm oil is about $0.32 per pound, with a global market size above $70 billion per year. Further, growing consumer awareness and shifting government regulations across the world suggest that the future is looking bright for alternative and environmentally friendly sources of palm oil. As an added value, our yeast platform also produces its own amylases. The enzyme market is obviously very competitive, but our technology could help ethanol plants reduce their operating expenses in this area.

What makes Xylome’s yeast product effective for conversion of stillage to oil for subsequent production of biodiesel? Can you tell us what producers can expect as far as yields of corn oil and of biodiesel?
Xylome’s expertise is in the world of nonconventional (i.e. non-Saccharomyces) yeast biotechnology. Our strains are capable of consuming nearly all of the soluble organic materials left behind in thin stillage, which are simply untouched by the yeast during primary ethanol fermentation, and converting them into large intracellular oil deposits. Our metabolic engineering and strain development program have brought the potential cost of the Xylome oil palm oil substitute down to an attractive level. Based on current byproduct levels, an average-sized ethanol plant could generate approximately $62 million in gross revenue and greater than $5 million in net revenue by adopting our patent-pending Xylome oil process. Biodiesel could then be generated by a downstream end-user of the palm oil substitute.

With development of the yeast product underway, what work is yet to be done before it can be sold commercially, and is there a timeline in place for that work?
While strain development often feels like a never-ending quest, we project that the cost of Xylome oil made by fermentation at ethanol plants is already competitive with the current cost of palm oil. We are currently scaling up the process, and are seeking either a major ethanol producer as a strategic partner or strategic investors to complete the downstream process optimization. Our next step is to build a demonstration plant, upon which a commercialization package will be made available to the broader ethanol industry. Other investments in regulatory submissions and marketing are also required.

See Calvey Speak On Tuesday, June 12 (1:30 pm - 3:00 pm)
Towards a Better Line of Sight on Corn Oil Extraction Approaches and Overall Yield

In your presentation, you’ll discuss the Aspen Plus process simulation modeling system. Can you tell us about that system and what it does?
Aspen Plus is a process simulation software that streamlines chemical engineering calculations. With it, you can build a process model of your biorefinery. The software contains databases of chemical properties and equilibrium data. This data can help you predict the behavior of fusels or the water-ethanol azeotrope in distillation, for instance. You can leverage the process model to explore the effects on the required process make-up water, stack gas temperature, Btu/gallon, sources of yield loss, and other operational parameters that may result from changes in operations. Other uses for the Aspen software are heat exchanger sizing and design, control loop tuning, and modeling of dynamic operations during startup or shutdown for identification of potential safety hazards or process upsets.

Can you give us a preview of one of the plant expansion case studies you will detail in your presentation?
Nelson Engineering performed an optimization study for a customer whose goal was to gain incremental gallons via increased operational consistency and efficiency. We built an Aspen model of their process and validated it against their operations to ensure the model was accurate. Upon presentation of their existing bottlenecks and troublesome areas, we collaborated with the customer to identify potential optimization projects, including third-party technologies, that might address their bottlenecks. After modeling these optimization projects, we were able to identify the extent to which these projects would debottleneck existing equipment and increase production, along with an estimated dollar amount per expanded gallon of capital expenditure. The results of our study provided our customer with the information they needed to confirm the value of the third-party technologies and formulate a multiyear capital outlay plan.

What are some common debottlenecking measures plants can take to improve production, and how does Aspen Plus help identify them?
As an EPC contractor, Nelson focuses on helping plants identify and optimize capital projects that are necessary for debottlenecking. Oftentimes, producers know they need additional capacity in areas A and B, but they have not identified areas C and D, which would crop up quickly if A and B were debottlenecked. Informed by the results of our study, customers can package these projects together, such as a fermenter and hammermills addition, as well as a beer degasser and sieve bottles expansion, making for a more efficient expansion. There are an ever-increasing number of bolt-on technology offerings. Many offer significant value to producers but present risks that can be difficult to fully predict. We can validate the sales claims of these third-party technologies using Aspen and help producers implement the technologies.

And Aspen helps us identify heat exchanger bottlenecks that can be resolved by an operational change—increasing velocity to improve heat transfer and decrease fouling.

See Trottman Speak On Tuesday, June 12 (3:30 pm - 5:00 pm)
A Multi-Disciplinary Look at Plant Expansions and Strategies Designed to Ensure their Ultimate Success

In your presentation, you’ll discuss some of the most common EPA regulation violations in the ethanol industry. Can you discuss a couple of those violations?
In 2017, EPA assessed $1.6 billion in civil and administrative penalties. Further, the estimated value to comply with the final compliance actions is $20 billion with another $17 million in projects that will benefit the environment and public health. One large case that many are likely familiar with is the Volkswagen scheme to cheat emission tests. This also involves criminal actions and resulted in a $2.8 billion criminal fine and a $1.5 billion settlement. Another was the result of a voluntary settlement with Harcros Chemicals Inc. This case was largely related to Risk Management Plans, which are a Clean Air Act requirement. The settlement included third-party audits to address company-wide compliance issues and will correct violations at 28 facilities in 18 states. In addition, a $950,000 penalty was assessed for this case.

How does EPA discover violations?
Some actions can be the result of voluntary disclosures. However, most cases are the result of agency inspections and evaluations. Of the 15,255 enforcement activities in 2017, 11,750 were agency inspections and evaluations. These inspections are typically targeted under the National Enforcement Initiatives that will be described more in my presentation.

How can plants tweak their environmental compliance plans to avoid the common violations?
The best policy for ethanol plants is to have a system to track environmental compliance requirements and to involve all employees. Too often, environmental compliance is the responsibility of one or two people, and that really is not very effective. Everyone at the plant needs to be aware and engaged, because there are so many activities at ethanol facilities, it needs to be a team effort. Include the EH&S Manager in planning meetings, tell EH&S when new chemicals may be purchased. Having a system and using it, including regular reviews and updates, will prepare the facility for any inspection and allow more time on special projects.

See Bailey Speak On Wednesday, June 13 (1:30 pm - 3:00 pm)
Strategies for Keeping Your Plant Perfectly Aligned with Environmental Regulations

View Agenda   View Panel Descriptions   Register Now

Platinum Level Sponsors

Gold Level Sponsors

Silver Level Sponsors

Supporting Organizations

Media Partner

Produced By