Ethanol industry in 'emerging phase'
Written by BILL RYAN/Sentinel Farm Editor
Monday, 01 April 2013 08:46
Despite the recent struggles in the ethanol industry, Mark Borer, general manager, POET Biorefining in Leipsic, painted a rosy picture of the future of ethanol to those gathered March 21 for the monthly Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum.
|Mark Borer, general manager, POET Biorefining, speaking to a group recently at Ag Incubator. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
While some consider the use of ethanol on the decline, Borer says the ethanol industry is still in its emerging phrase.
Borer stressed the value of research and development in keeping ethanol a vital part of the America’s energy future.
“We are constantly improving technology,” he said.
Some of that research touches local farmers as he said as they have designed their own plants and have made vast improvements to allow quicker and smoother delivery of corn when farmers bring their stock.
“All Things Ethanol” was his topic and Borer did cover a wide variety of subjects about POET and its role as a major player in renewable fuels. The forum was held at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation on Ohio 582 near Haskins.
“It is easy to make a good case for ethanol,” he stated. “There is a lot of misinformation out there.”
He explained that no matter your views on off-shore drilling, fracking and other sources of crude oil and gas, they are a “finite resource.”
Borer added, “The writing is on the wall. We’re still finding it but it takes a lot more resources to get it out.”
The economics of continued use of those fuels does not look advantageous.
He said the obvious answers are to go back to renewable fuels such as solar, wind and going “back to the field.”
While corn is the primary source of ethanol, other cellulosic sources are quickly emerging as an additional source. The plant manager said POET is already collecting stover and cobs from farmers and converting that into cellulosic ethanol.
They are also focusing more on other biodiesel fuels.
“There is a lot more than corn and this is an opportunity in our minds,” Borer said. “The technology is changing every day.”
With the current higher grain prices, Borer conceded right now profits are thin and many plants have closed due to the glut of ethanol available.
However he added, “The worldwide demand is rising. It’s no longer just about the U.S.”
He expects a 25 percent growth in the use of ethanol by 2035.
Making his case for ethanol, he explained that most people just think of gasoline as gasoline. However, he pointed out there are more than 100 ingredients in the gas you pump into your vehicle’s tanks. That right now includes roughly 10 percent ethanol.
“Ethanol adds octane. In fact it is one of the cheapest forms of octane in fuel,” Borer said.
He said that the raw ethanol averages 80 cents a gallon less than the gas used to make the same amount of octane in fuel.
One of the common criticisms is that the corn being used for ethanol is being siphoned off the food supply.
First statistics bear out that in the modern ethanol production, the Renewable Fuels Association states for every bushel of corn that is processed, one-third is returned to the livestock feed market. The by-product of the ethanol production is dried distillers grains often just called DDGs. This is a rich commodity for livestock feeds, though some studies have indicated potential problems in that.
Aside from the ever-increasing yields being achieved on American fields, including the ones here in Wood County, Borer said many other nations in the world are now stepping up their corn production which means that the world production of corn has increased 49 percent since 2007.
With the additional product of corn oil now being produced in ethanol plants, the stover being used for cellulosic fuel and the DDGs, Borer says they are actually only consuming 17 percent of the corn it is processing.
With growing demand for increasing the ethanol content in gasoline from the current 10 percent levels to E-15 which boosts that to 15 percent, Borer tried to allay any fears by noting that NASCAR racers currently run on E-15 and he says their studies have found far less carbon build-up in the engines.
“I encourage people to call their senators and congressmen to support the use of E-15,” Borer said.
“There’s going to be continued strong demand for liquid fuels,” he added.
He said the ethanol industry is partnering with the American goals of “reducing dependence on foreign oil, boosting the American economy and maintaining leadership in technology and innovation.”
Last Updated on Monday, 01 April 2013 08:52