Ethanol conference draws 2,000 to Minneapolis

Source: By Holly Jessen and Susanne Retka Schil, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

This year, one in four FEW participants—500 of the 2,000 attendees—was an ethanol producer. A total of 179 U.S. ethanol plants were represented at the conference, as well as six Canadian ethanol plants and 11 advanced ethanol plants in North America. When international attendees were added to the list, 210 conference-goers represented ethanol, advanced biofuels or biodiesel facilities.

FEW started June 1, with the Ethanol 101 preconference event, where about 60 people, most new to the ethanol industry, had a chance to learn the basics.  That evening, kicking off the full conference, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis gave brief remarks critical of the U.S. EPA’s proposed renewable volume (RVO) obligations announced Friday, while praising USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of a new round of infrastructure grants. Ron Beemiller, CEO of WB Services, cut the ribbon to open the doors for the welcome reception.

About 140 speakers gave presentations at the general and breakout sessions in four concurrent tracks on June 2 and 3, covering multiple topics on production and operations, leadership and financial management, coproducts and product diversification and cellulosic and advanced ethanol. But first, attendees gathered for the general session, where Ray Defenbaugh, president, CEO and chairman of Big River Resources LLC, was announced as the winner of the High Octane Award and John Caupert, director of the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center, received the Award of Excellence.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, took the stage next, giving a 13-point keynote presentation on what the U.S. EPA has gotten wrong in its proposed renewable volume obligations to implement  the renewable fuel standard (RFS) in 2014, ’15 and ’16. Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, then took the stage to say that the big question, whether EPA knows it or not, is if RFS2 will be implemented or if the oil industry will win the fight to stick with RFS1. Five ethanol producers then participated in the ethanol producer roundtable, wrapping up the 2015 FEW general session.

On June 4, the final day of FEW, attendees participated in a tour of Poet Biorefining-Lake Crystal before stopping at Hennen’s Auto Service, a carrier of the Minnoco brand of midlevel ethanol blends.

The 2016 FEW is set for June 20-23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.