Renewable Fuels Month spotlights benefits of homegrown fuel options

LINCOLN, Neb. – May is typically the kick-off to the summer driving season and has historically been a time Nebraska’s renewable fuels industries have come together to highlight the importance of cleanburning biofuel options. However, due to COVID-19 concerns, Renewable Fuels Month was postponed and will be celebrated throughout June 2020. To help promote locally-produced biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts recently declared June as Renewable Fuels Month. Since 2006, the acting Nebraska governor has dedicated one month out of each year to serve as a public awareness campaign.

“As a farmer who grows corn, soybeans and raises livestock, I understand the importance of biofuels to the agricultural industry,” said David Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Friend. “While ethanol and biodiesel have greatly helped add value to Nebraska’s corn and soybean crops, these renewable fuels also benefit consumers. They’re typically less expensive, high performing and better for the environment.”

Across the U.S., motorists have access to higher blends of ethanol at select retailers.

The environmental benefits of ethanol and biodiesel are particularly important this year, as new scientific research from Harvard University has shown patients with COVID-19 were more likely to die in areas of high pollution than in areas of low pollution. U.S. Department of Agriculture research shows ethanol emissions are up to 43% less compared to gasoline without ethanol, a statistic that has continued to improve.

“There are some people who choose not to use ethanol based off of misinformation they may have heard in the past,” said Jan tenBensel, chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board and farmer from Cambridge. “All I can say is to try a higher blend. If you have any vehicle model year 2001 and newer, your vehicle is approved for at least a 15% ethanol blend, sometimes called Unleaded88. E15 is the most tested fuel ever. Also, check your owner’s manual. You might have a flex fuel vehicle, which can use any ethanol blends up to 85% (known as E85). The higher the blend used, the more money saved and the fewer toxic chemicals emitted from the tailpipe.”

Nebraska is often known for its “golden triangle” of agriculture, referring to the close proximity and synergies achieved through the state’s corn, ethanol and livestock production sectors. As the nation’s second largest ethanol producing state, nearly 2.1 billion gallons of ethanol and about 6.4 million metric tons of distillers grains (high protein livestock feed) are created each year from Nebraska’s 25 ethanol plants. Additionally, ethanol production boosts Nebraska’s rural economy by employing over 1,400 people.

Biodiesel is another important biofuel which supports the state’s soybean farmers and provides health benefits to the general public. Biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel made from soy oil and other renewable resources. It offers fuel economy, horsepower and torque similar to petroleum diesel, but with fewer harmful effects on diesel engines, the environment and human health. In fact, biodiesel lowers particulate matter by 47% and reduces smog, making air cleaner.

Biodiesel, renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel are low-carbon fuel options used on road, off road, in air transportation, electricity generation and home heating applications. Usage will exceed 6 billion gallons by 2030, eliminating over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually.

“Biodiesel has tremendous human health benefits, but it also makes economic sense,” said Eugene Goering, chairman of the Nebraska Soybean Board and farmer from Columbus. “Not only is biodiesel adding 63 cents per bushel to the value of soybeans, but it also helps livestock producers because it decreases soy protein meal costs. This advanced biofuel is responsible for over 60,000 jobs across the country which supports the American economy.”

Throughout June, follow the Nebraska Corn Board, the Nebraska Ethanol Board, the Nebraska Soybean Board and Renewable Fuels Nebraska on Facebook for additional facts and statistics on ethanol and biodiesel. These Facebook pages will also feature trivia promotions, contests and up-to-date information regarding upcoming fuel promotions.

Consumers looking for higher ethanol blends can visit getbiofuel.com or UNL88.com. Biodiesel information and locations can be found at biodieselNE.com and biodiesel.org.

The Nebraska Corn Board is a state funded agency funded through a ½-cent-per-bushel checkoff on all corn marketed in the state. The mission of the Nebraska Corn Board is to promote the value of corn by creating opportunities. Checkoff funds are invested in programs of market development, research, promotion and education.

The Nebraska Ethanol Board works to ensure strong public policy and consumer support for biofuels. Since 1971, the independent state agency has designed and managed programs to expand production, market access, worker safety and technology innovation, including recruitment of producers interested in developing conventional ethanol, as well as bio-products from the ethanol platform.

The nine-member Nebraska Soybean Board collects and disburses the Nebraska share of funds generated by the one half of one percent times the net sales price per bushel of soybeans sold. Nebraska soybean checkoff funds are invested in research, education, domestic and foreign markets, including new uses for soybeans and soybean products.

Renewable Fuels Nebraska (RFN) is the trade association for Nebraska’s ethanol industry. RFN is a resource for advocating for policy that ensures the growth and expansion of the nation’s second largest renewable fuels industry through advocacy, market access and public awareness.

Nebraska Ethanol Board June 10th board meeting to be held in Lincoln

LINCOLN, NEB – The Nebraska Ethanol Board will meet in Lincoln at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 10. The meeting will be at Hyatt Place (600 Q Street) in the conjoined meeting rooms I, II, & III. Board, staff and audience members will be able to adhere to COVID-19 recommended guidelines and spatial distancing of 6 feet apart. The agenda is as follows:

  1. Call Meeting to Order
  2. Approval of Agenda
  3. Approval of March 4, 2020, Board Meeting Minutes
  4. Public Opportunity for Questions, Comments or Concerns
  5. Budget Report & Budget Planning Fiscal Year 2020-21
  6. Fuel Retailer Update
  7. E30 Demonstration Update
  8. Renewable Fuels Nebraska Update
  9. Nebraska Corn Board Update
  10. Marketing Programs
  11. NEB-hosted Conferences & Events
  12. Approval of Contracts
  13. State and Federal Legislation
  14. Ethanol Plant Reports
  15. Chair’s Report
  16. Administrator’s Report
  17. Working Lunch
  18. Travel Reports and Authorization
  19. Board vacancies
  20. Personnel
  21. Executive Session, if deemed necessary
  22. Next Meeting Date
  23. Adjourn

This agenda contains all items to come before the Board except those items of an emergency nature.

The Nebraska Ethanol Board works to ensure strong public policy and consumer support for biofuels. Since 1971, the independent state agency has designed and managed programs to expand production, market access, worker safety and technology innovation, including recruitment of producers interested in developing conventional ethanol, as well as bio-products from the ethanol platform. For more information, visit www.ethanol.nebraska.gov.

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USDA Seeks Sanitizer From Nebraska-Based Operation

Russell Parde, pilot plant manager for the Food Processing Center (FPC) at Nebraska Innovation Campus, fills a container with hand sanitizer. More than 60,000 gallons of sanitizer has been donated since the project began April 5.

LINCOLN, Neb. (May 20, 2020) — A vision between two ethanol advocates to use excess ethanol to make hand sanitizer for Nebraskans has now became a nationwide effort. Nearly 7,000 gallons of Nebraska-made sanitizer has been donated and shipped to Maryland and dispersed throughout the country to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) employees responsible for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products. There are 6,500 FSIS field offices across the nation.

The USDA’s initial request included 6,500 gallons of hand sanitizer but deliveries have continued as the need remains – now totaling 6,700 gallons. An additional 6,500 gallons is planned to also be donated. Hunter Flodman, PhD., assistant professor of practice in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), says this will be no problem. Thanks, largely, to a very generous donation of food grade (FCC) alcohol from Green Plains Inc (NASDAQ:GPRE). Green Plains has been a huge champion, donating 81,000 gallons of FCC grade alcohol since the temporary hand sanitizer production facility began in early April. When the request came in from the USDA, they did not hesitate.

“Green Plains and our employees remain committed to providing high quality, FDA approved, FCC grade alcohol for the use in production of hand sanitizer,” said Todd Becker, president and CEO of Green Plains. “We are happy to be able to fill a need for the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service employees, as they work hard to keep America’s food supply chain safe.”

Green Plains, which operates 13 biorefineries across the United States, has donated more than 6,800 gallons of FCC grade alcohol for the USDA project. The donated product comes from Green Plains Inc’s York, Nebraska, facility. FCC Grade alcohol is higher in purity and quality than traditional fuel grade ethanol. Green Plains does not sell any fuel grade alcohol for use in disinfectants or sanitizers.

“I cannot say enough about the incredible generosity of our partners in the ethanol industry during an economically challenging time,” Flodman said. “In this case, Green Plains is helping ensure that consumers get a safe product, whether they buy meat at a supermarket or a meat locker in their community.”

Other organizations, including BASF, Cargill, Johnson Matthey, Lee Containers, Phillips 66 Co., the State of Nebraska, and Syngenta have also contributed. 

“When production started initially, we thought we’d donate about 4,000 gallons for essential businesses around Nebraska. That ended up happening in just the first two days,” Dr. Flodman said. “The whole operation came together very quickly so we didn’t have a plan for how much and how long. However, the need hasn’t been met. There is still a shortage of hand sanitizer. More than 25 companies have stepped up to donate the raw materials, and the University [of Nebraska-Lincoln] continues to give us the resources we need so we can continue to donate hand sanitizer to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The hand sanitizer production facility has a home in the parking lot of Nebraska Innovation Campus’ (NIC) Food Processing Center (FPC). Volunteers have mixed more than 60,000 gallons of hand sanitizer – all from donated raw materials – since the operation began April 5.

Dr. Flodman, who is also the technical advisor for the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB), and Jan tenBensel, NEB Chairman, have spearheaded the project. They started brainstorming ideas on April 1, and by April 6 the team was in full production mode. Currently, the team consists of just a handful of people who have undergone safety training. They have worked tirelessly for the past several weeks to recruit supplies and fulfill requests. These volunteers include Dr. Flodman; tenBensel; Dr. Terry Howell Jr., FPC executive director; Russell Parde, FPC pilot plant manager; and additional FPC and UNL Engineering staff, including Heather Newell; Julie Reiling: Leonard Akert; Pete Hilsabeck; Sarah Herzinger; and Tom Dobesh. UNL Environmental Health and Safety has contributed time and resources to the project including full time volunteer TJ Bond. The Nebraska Forest Service, through Lewis Sieber, has handled raw material transport and logistics.  

“These USDA inspectors provide critical support to our food supply chain and also the livestock industry here in our state,” Howell said. “It’s been a privilege for the Food Processing Center and its faculty and staff to contribute to this important project. It’s humbling to be able to make a difference during this health care crisis.” 

The partnership with the FPC is key because it is U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-approved facility for the production of food. The FPC had to register with the FDA as an over-the-counter drug manufacturer for the process of producing hand sanitizer. Without them, the project couldn’t have even begun. Now, with the FDA tightening restrictions on who can and cannot provide ethanol for hand sanitizer, the partnership with Green Plains is integral.

“At first the FDA relaxed restrictions which allowed many ethanol plants to step up in this time of need. Now, we fear these tightened restrictions on fuel-grade ethanol will worsen sanitizer shortages,” tenBensel said. “We are very encouraged that Green Plains continues to support these efforts and will continue to forge ahead, but we feel this is quite a blow to the plants who invested in equipment for hand-sanitizer production to offset this slump in fuel demand. Safety is, of course, our No. 1 priority and the very reason we began this project, so we understand the FDA’s caution.” 

So far, the hand sanitizer made at NIC has been delivered to first responders, hospitals, nursing homes, and other essential businesses and organizations throughout Nebraska and now to Maryland. Fulfilling the USDA’s order requires multiple deliveries because of transportation restrictions. Once dropped off, the USDA manages distribution to its employees.

Production will continue as long as resources allow, tenBensel said. So far, every single gallon of product has been provided to these organizations at no cost. For more information about the project, visit handsanitizer.unl.edu.

Nebraska Innovation Campus New Home for Sanitizer Production

Pictured from left, Dr. Hunter Flodman, assistant professor of practice in chemical and biomolecular engineering at UNL and technical advisor for the Nebraska Ethanol Board; Russell Parde, pilot plant manager for the Food Processing Center (FPC) at Nebraska Innovation Campus; and Sarah Herzinger, FPC research technologist. Safety training was required for all volunteers working on the project.

LINCOLN, Neb. — In the parking lot of Nebraska Innovation Campus’ (NIC) Food Processing Center (FPC), a white tent houses a temporary hand sanitizer production facility. More than 20 organizations have come together to help meet the escalating needs of our healthcare community. This means hospitals like Nebraska Medicine will get the supplies they need at no cost.

“We are very grateful to Nebraska’s ethanol producers, UNL, the State of Nebraska, and many other people and organizations for pulling together to make this happen,” said James Linder, MD, CEO of Nebraska Medicine. “At Nebraska Medicine we are using up to 500 liters (more than 132 gallons) of hand sanitizer a day. We are constantly looking for innovative ways to protect our frontline medical workers as they respond to this pandemic.”

Hunter Flodman, PhD., assistant professor of practice in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), who is also the technical advisor for the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB), and Jan tenBensel, NEB Chairman, have spearheaded the project. They started brainstorming ideas on Wednesday, April 1, and on Sunday, April 5, in a few short hours, more than 1,200 gallons of hand sanitizer had been mixed. By Monday, the team was in full production mode.

Dr. Hunter Flodman, technical advisor for the Nebraska Ethanol Board and assistant professor at UNL, holds a sample of hand sanitizer created with donated ethanol. There are 25 ethanol plants in Nebraska who produce more than 2.1 billion gallons of ethanol per year using locally-grown field corn. This makes Nebraska the second largest producer of ethanol.

“The coronavirus pandemic has created greater problems than many of us could have imagined,” Dr. Flodman said. “After hearing about shortages of hand sanitizer, we hoped we could find a way to overcome some of the obstacles our fuel grade ethanol producers were facing – including navigating the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations. We found that opportunity at Nebraska Innovation Campus. This partnership with the Food Processing Center is key because it is an FDA-approved facility for the production of food. The FPC had to register with the FDA as an over-the-counter drug manufacturer for the process of producing hand sanitizer. Without them, we would not have been able to make this happen.”

 “After we found a home for the project, everything has been falling into place,” tenBensel said. “We reached out to our ethanol industry partners, and one-by-one they started donating their goods and services and continue to do so. The response is remarkable.”

Jan tenBensel, a farmer from Cambridge, Nebraska and chairman for the Nebraska Ethanol Board, explains the process of mixing hand sanitizer. Non-flammable items were kept inside to reduce risks. tenBensel helped spearhead the project, along with advisor to the Board, Dr. Hunter Flodman.

After the first full day of production, the team was able to distribute more than 2,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. They anticipate thousands more gallons by week’s end, which will go to hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, first responders, and other facilities in need. The project will continue as resources allow.

“Dr. Flodman worked virtually around the clock to design the production model, one that could produce up to 5,000 gallons per day if absolutely necessary and if supplies remained available,” said Terry Howell, executive director for the FPC. 

At this time, Green Plains Inc., and KAAPA Ethanol are donating ethanol and BASF, Cargill, and Syngenta are providing the required chemicals and packaging materials. Sapp Bros. is collecting ethanol from the plants, storing it at their facility, and delivering it to NIC in small batches where Dr. Flodman, the FPC’s pilot plant employees, other FPC staff, and a team of student workers combine the ingredients and bottle it for distribution. 

Roger Berry, administrator for the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said that some of Nebraska’s 25 ethanol plants have idled due to lack of demand, which is creating storage problems. Several ethanol producers across the nation are donating their products to hand sanitizer manufacturing efforts.

“We are proud of our ethanol producers’ involvement in this undertaking,” said Troy Bredenkamp, executive director of Renewable Fuels Nebraska. “It is the bit of positivity we needed right now. During a time when ethanol plants are facing catastrophic losses, the University has transitioned to remote classes, and businesses are changing how they operate, we’re honored to join in this effort to collectively help Nebraskans during this strange and challenging time.”

If you are a government or public health organization and would like to request hand sanitizer, please contact your local public health response coordinator for assistance and to coordinate delivery. For a full list of Nebraska’s public health response coordinators, click here.

Ron Bailey, associate director of facilities maintenance and operations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), pictured left, samples hand sanitizer mixed by Dr. Hunter Flodman, assistant professor of practice in chemical and biomolecular engineering at UNL and technical advisor for the Nebraska Ethanol Board. More than 20 organizations are participating in the effort to provide materials and services to donate sanitizer to hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices and other healthcare providers.

This coordination has included the time, talents, and finances of many partners. While this is an ongoing effort and more ethanol plants will contribute as the FDA allows, the organizers recognized the following for their support: Aurora Coop; BASF Enzymes; Beatrice Scale Company; Bosselman Enterprises; Cargill; CKS; Gov. Pete Ricketts and these State of Nebraska agencies: Nebraska Department of Administrative Services, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, and the Nebraska Ethanol Board; Greenfield Global; Green Plains Inc.; HowatRisk; Johnson Matthey; KAAPA Ethanol; Market Actives; Nebraska Innovation Campus; Renewable Fuels Nebraska; Sapp Bros.; Syngenta; The American Cleaning Institute; and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln including the College of Engineering.

Video courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The Nebraska Ethanol Board works to ensure strong public policy and consumer support for biofuels. Since 1971, the independent state agency has designed and managed programs to expand production, market access, worker safety and technology innovation, including recruitment of producers interested in developing conventional ethanol, as well as bio-products from the ethanol platform. For more information, visit www.ethanol.nebraska.gov.

Renewable Fuels Nebraska (RFN) is the trade organization for Nebraska’s ethanol industry.  We are an industry resource encouraging public policy that ensures the growth and expansion of the nation’s second largest renewable fuels industry. For more information visit renewablefuelsne.org.

Emerging Issues Forum Rescheduled Due to Coronavirus

JUNE 2020 EDIT: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 Forum has been canceled. But please plan to join us March 24-25, 2021 at the same location. Stay tuned for registration details.

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In light of the current health issues and precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) and Renewable Fuels Nebraska (RFN) have rescheduled the Ethanol: Emerging Issues Forum 2020 for July 15-16. The Forum will be held at the La Vista Conference Center in Greater Omaha if the threat of COVID-19 has subsided. A new registration link and details will be available soon at ethanol.nebraska.gov.

The Forum brings together ethanol producers and others from across the nation who are integrally involved in production, technology, policymaking, and marketing of ethanol and its co-products. The agenda runs from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and 8:00 a.m. to noon Thursday, with multiple networking opportunities in between.

While the conference has been postponed, the hosts have been able to reconfirm many of the speaking engagements. Topics include an overview and discussion of the most pressing federal policies, regulatory and legal actions, and market trends from around the world. Speakers will also outline opportunities in emerging co-product markets from industry partners and remind attendees why they (and why the public should) fall in love with ethanol.

Other scheduled presentations include exploring the potential of future ethanol use in the electric vehicle market, fostering environmental relationships as agricultural and ethanol producers, as well as a discussion considering how ethanol and the petroleum industry can work together.

“We take pride in connecting attendees with some of the most sought-after experts in our industry and providing them with knowledge and foresight of what we truly see evolving in the future,” said Roger Berry, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “Whether you work in the ethanol sector or you’re a citizen enthusiastic about the potential that biofuels have to reduce pollution, we welcome you to attend this exciting and educational event.”