Ethanol production in Iowa is slightly up

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Local production has also increased

Iowa's 43 ethanol plants produced a record 4.2 billion gallons in 2017 according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. Locally, Poet Biorefining, of Emmetsburg, also saw an increase in production. Poet Biorefining General Manager Daron Wilson declined to share further details about the plant's 2017 production.

Executive Director of Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Monte Shaw said the increase from 4.1 billion last year was mostly due to plant expansions, increased demand and higher blends such as E15, a 15 percent ethanol blended fuel.

"Two things have to be there to increase production, one is production capacity and we had several plant expansions were completed during 2017," Shaw said. "The other factor is you have to have demand. We did see increases in demand for higher blends like E15."

"We had a very good year of production," Wilson said. "Over the years we have been running, we started up in 2005, we have increased production. We continue to find ways to increase production each year. I feel confident that we will increase our production through efficiency improvements."

While Poet receives most of its corn directly from farmers in a 30-mile radius of the Emmetsburg area, it also conducts business with local elevators.

"Through business itself we generate a lot of dollars," Wilson said. "We buy corn so we increase the demand for corn in the local area. We support corn prices by being a large buyer of corn in the area. ... That money turns around in the community again and again. The biorefinery supports numbers of well paying jobs in the local area."

Shaw said that E15 is only available in approximately a 150 stations in Iowa. He would like to see it's expansion in Iowa and across the United States. He also said it is imperative to expand export markets.

"The area of demand that had a bigger impact has been exports," Shaw said. "In 2017, it was just increases across the board on several new markets, it wasn't just like one big market. The fact that those export markets diversified is good because then we are not as reliant on any one market."

The association's top priority for the 2018 legislative session will be to increase funding to help retailers in the state upgrade equipment to accommodate higher blends of ethanol.

"It is going to be vitally important to Iowa to find ways to drive demand because we are sitting on a lot of corn and it is cheap," Shaw said. "Increasing ethanol production is the best way to increase corn demand and raise prices which boasts Iowa's overall economy."

The Valero Hartley Ethanol Plant was contacted for this article, but declined to comment.

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