Farm and ethanol coalitions nationwide recently lauded the EPA’s denial of 54 small refinery exemption petitions for “gap years,” but many considerable challenges remain to overcome the past few years of lenient exemption approvals. COVID-19 travel restrictions have served to reduce the government’s penalization of small refineries that now find themselves with unexpected deficits.
The Trump administration has exempted some refineries from the RFS mandate that requires petroleum-based fuel to contain specified amounts of renewable fuel. This action, taken in part due to economic strains arising from the coronavirus, bring unique challenges to the supply chain. Ethanol producers and farmers now face an unclear expectation of supply and demand for the winter months and subsequent spring planting.
These ethanol and grain industries are also charged with safely storing the excess processed ethanol or distillery grain that fell far short of predicted demand in 2020.
Storing Overages from Decreased Demand
Farmers and ethanol refineries now have an excessive amount of product that could cost them millions of dollars if not handled and stored correctly. Both ethanol and the grain from which it is distilled require care in the storage process.
Ethanol is highly flammable, so precautionary measures should be taken within close vicinity. Enclosed storage containers must have proper empty space above the liquid line as the buildup of gas can result in dangerous reactions.
Quality issues can arise with prolonged storage due to ethanol’s high rate of water absorption. Storage tanks must be securely sealed off to outside moisture, and also be checked routinely for the presence of water. When ethanol begins to absorb water, further complications result in container corrosion and the attraction of microbes. These microbes feed on the ethanol and produce acetic acid that corrodes the tank and contaminates the product.
Professional guidance in tank selection, methods of storage, and routine testing of product integrity can help prevent these issues.
Dry Milled Corn
Dried corn kernels must be stored before going through the distillery process to produce ethanol. Proper drying is imperative to the success of grain storage. Moist grain can obstruct material flow, forming bridges, build up, or ratholes through compacted grain. These compactions can be hazardous as well as result in financial loss.
Grain storage relies heavily on temperature control. High temperatures create a toxic environment. Heat creates moisture, and moisture creates unwanted microbial mold activity.
Temperature control, proper airflow and consistent maintenance all work together to preserve dried corn kernels waiting for the ethanol distilling process.
Mole•Master™ helps companies navigate the complexities of ethanol and grain storage. We provide silo inspections, silo cleaning, preventative silo maintenance, confined space entry and more. Contact us today to learn more about the strategies we use to help prevent product contamination, facility accidents, and material loss.