Exhibitors are now clearing the show floor after the second (and final) full day of the 2016 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo (FEW). While some will attend a half-day United Ethanol plant tour tomorrow, many are on their way home to share the learnings they gained and the business cards they nabbed.

In case you couldn’t attend the workshop this year, here are a few key takeaways.


Data’s a hot topic for ethanol industry professionals

Acknowledging that, due to customer meetings, it may have been a late night for a portion of the audience, Lallemand’s Darlene Gonzalez introduced Novozymes’ Technical Service Manager Laurie Duval to a near-packed room at the Wisconsin Convention Center.

As it turns out, ethanol industry professionals are very interested in learning about how to harness the data their plants generate to make measureable improvements and gain process efficiency.

“Our products are the small component which make a big difference when margins matter,” Duval explained. “It’s all about optimization.”

Duval set the stage by explaining the challenges of data collection and analysis in a typical plant, then moved on to collection methodology and how she might go about analyzing that data. The goal, she said, was to enable faster, more effective decision making—a prospect that could have wide-reaching implications.

She closed out her presentation with two case studies in which Novozymes helped its customers achieve process improvement. In one case, they reduced alpha amylase spend by $300,000 per year and reduced batch variability by 50 percent. In the other, they helped the customer achieve improved cook control and optimized propagation, enabling them to hit optimal targets that translated into $990,000 per year more revenue if this improvement was maintained.

“It’s the combination of being able to retrieve the right data and to know what to look for that will help drive the ethanol industry forward,” she concluded.

            Read the preview we posted of Duval’s presentation here.


Panelists optimistic about industry’s future but see EPA as a barrier

Throughout the conference’s panel discussions, we heard a couple common threads: the challenges that the ethanol industry faces going forward, and the debate over which strategies to take in combating those roadblocks to unlock new markets.

And while all the FEW 2016 panelists expressed optimism about the industry’s future, many were also frank in their opinions. In a panel moderated by Vice President of BBI International Tim Portz, OPEC was described as being willing to sacrifice profits in order to drive down the US oil industry in much the same way.

Truly, though, the EPA was the most common topic on the subjects of industry and political barriers, in large part due to pushback it continues to give in terms of the RFS. In a separate panel moderated by BBI President Tom Bryan, CEO of ICM Inc. Dave VanderGriend reminded the audience that we need to set our sights higher than RFS targets, and focus on removing regulatory barriers to even higher ethanol blends.

“The RFS was meant to be a floor,” VanderGriend said, “not a ceiling.”


Using models, data to create a better enzyme solution

While exhibitors began breaking down their booths, nearly 100 conference attendees made their way to Nicholas Giffen’s presentation on using enzymes to optimize fermentation across a wide variety of process conditions.

Giffen emphasized the importance of data (am I having déjà vu?) in determining which enzyme solutions to use in a particular plant’s fermentation process, adding that there is no “one-size-fits-all” enzyme.

As he explained, different enzyme mechanisms drive unique benefits. If we can simulate the effects of these variables when they interact, we can then produce a fermentation model that would help reduce the amount of trial and error currently used by plants to reach their desired result.

Giffen then demonstrated, in a simplified way, how the process works using an Avantec® Amp urea model—a project he said he had recently been working on, which took into account seven different inputs to accurately estimate the optimal amount of nitrogen as an output.

Of course, different plants have different goals. And to show that Novozymes’ advanced analytics could help plant operators meet those goals, Giffen also took the audience through a variety of process conditions and the solutions that Novozymes might recommend in those circumstances.

Read the preview we posted of Giffen’s presentation here.


We hope to see you next year!

On behalf of Novozymes, we hope everyone who attended the workshop enjoyed it as much as we did.

And, for those of you who weren’t with us in Milwaukee, we invite you to read our recap post of the first day and continue to follow us on Twitter as we keep you up to speed on issues relevant to the ethanol industry.

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Geoff Hayward

Communications Advisor at Novozymes
Geoff writes about Bioenergy for the Communications team at Novozymes. When he isn’t advocating for an industry that’s changing the world for the better, he can be found on a North Carolina bike path or playing slide guitar.