EPA Approves Sorghum Oil Pathway

The new Sorghum Oil Pathway clears the way for biodiesel plants to produce advanced biofuels from grain sorghum oil extracted at ethanol plants.

Written By: Delanie Crist

On July 24, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler approved sorghum oil as an eligible feedstock under the Renewable Fuel Standard. A signing event was held at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., with National Sorghum Producers leadership and Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS).

NSP Chairman Don Bloss, Vice Chairman Dan Atkisson, and directors Kody Carson and Bobby Nedbalek provided remarks, expressing how the pathway is welcomed news for our industry and marks a significant step toward leveling the playing field for ethanol plants extracting oil from grain sorghum.

“This is a great day for U.S. sorghum farmers and their partners in the ethanol and biodiesel industries,” said NSP Chairman Don Bloss, a sorghum farmer from Pawnee City, Nebraska, after the event. “NSP has worked tirelessly for over two years to make this happen. A pathway for sorghum oil opens new markets for ethanol plants extracting oil from sorghum and ultimately adds value to the grain farmers produce.”

The EPA’s approval of the pathway will result in near-immediate introduction of a monthly increase volume of grain sorghum oil biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels into the stream of commerce. NSP estimates an additional 20 million bushels per year will be absorbed with new market access for the crop. Senator Moran said now, more than ever, farmers need every available market for the sorghum they produce.

“Approval of the sorghum oil pathway will increase the incentive for ethanol facilities to utilize sorghum,” he said, “meaning higher prices for farmers. Several ethanol facilities have already installed the technology necessary to separate sorghum oil from distiller’s grain. With sorghum oil now approved to produce biofuels, sorghum will no longer be at a price disadvantage compared to other crops with approved pathways.”

Congressman Marshall added his optimism for additional markets for Kansas sorghum producers and its benefits reaching beyond the farmer.

“This pathway is crucial to not only our sorghum producers, but also our biofuels plants, and our rural economy,” Rep. Marshall said. “Farmers can use all the relief they can get in the midst of growing uncertainty in global markets. I look forward to seeing the positive impact this pathway will have in the Kansas First District.”

For over two years NSP worked closely with the EPA to establish a biofuels pathway for grain sorghum oil in the RFS. The process officially began when NSP submitted a full petition in July 2016 with almost 300 pages of documentation from nutritionists and construction companies.

In December 2017, the EPA released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) concerning renewable fuels produced from grain sorghum oil under the RFS program followed by a 30-day comment period. NSP submitted supplementary documentation in January and March 2018.

EPA’s final analysis shows biodiesel produced from grain sorghum oil has greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings of 82 percent, giving ethanol plants extracting oil from grain sorghum access to sell into the biodiesel market.