By KEVIN WALKER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week the comment period ended for a federal government-proposed rule that will, among other things, include corn fiber as a cellulosic feedstock for purposes of getting credit to meet the ethanol industry’s renewable fuel obligation under the government’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
On the same day, July 15, the Renewable Fuels Assoc. (RFA) submitted a 28-page comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hailing this latest development. The RFA, a pro-ethanol group, sees corn fiber as another way for ethanol producers to meet their goals and be successful in the renewable fuel marketplace.
The proposed change will allow blenders, refiners and importers of fuel to get credits, called renewable identification numbers (RINs), to help them meet their renewable volume obligations (RVO) under the mandate. The RVO for each party is the volume of renewable fuels it is obligated to sell, based on a percentage of the company’s total fuel sales.
Specifically, the proposed rule will allow the use of crop residue, including corn fiber, to be used as cellulosic feedstock. Although this will make it easier for ethanol producers to get the RINs they need to meet their obligations for cellulosic biofuel production, RFA President/CEO Bob Dinneen said it’s not an accounting trick.
Cellulosic and regular ethanol processes are really the same on the “back end,” he said. “I think that’s where cellulosic is really going to get its foothold, in these plants that are already operating,” Dinneen stated.
He said there’s also a number of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants being built right now that will be able to separate and use corn fiber for ethanol production.
People have been exploring the possibility of separating fiber from the rest of the corn kernel for some time now, he said, adding what the EPA is proposing is a natural development, not something that’s come out of lobbying or any other kind of industry special pleading.
“It’s all good stuff,” he said.
In the comments it submitted to the EPA, the RFA said originally the EPA defined crop residue as the biomass left over from the harvesting of planted crops. Now, though, after reading public comments, the agency is defining crop residue to also include biomass left over after the processing of the crop into a useable resource, such as husks, seeds, bagasse and roots.
The EPA projects crop residues such as sugarcane bagasse and sweet sorghum pulp will account for considerable volumes of cellulosic biofuel by 2022. The RFA says corn fiber, like bagasse and sweet sorghum pulp, is derived from the processing of planted crops and is usually thought of as crop or agricultural residue.
“A review of the scientific literature’s treatment of agricultural or crop residues confirms that corn fiber is commonly understood to be a crop residue,” the statement said.
To read more on this, visit www.regulations.gov