Sorghum Oil Approved for RFS

Sorghum Growers See Opportunity With Change, Though it is Likely a Small Niche for Now

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The National Sorghum Producers pushed for more than two years to get sorghum oil as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard. (Photo courtesy of the National Sorghum Producers)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday announced his agency had approved sorghum oil as a feedstock under the Renewable Fuel Standard as an advanced biofuel and biodiesel product.

EPA, sorghum industry leaders, senators and congressmen held a roundtable discussion late Tuesday afternoon to talk about the importance of the decision for ethanol plants and sorghum producers. A Texas producer told Wheeler that the decision would help motive more farmers to grow sorghum, which takes less water than crops such as corn.

The National Sorghum Producers pushed for more than two years to get sorghum oil as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard. EPA initially proposed the rule last December, noting in its proposed assessment that, as a biodiesel product, distillers sorghum oil had the potential to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 82% compared to a petroleum diesel product. That achieves EPA's threshold to be considered an advanced biofuel.

"This pathway for sorghum oil reaches far beyond the farmer," said Tom Willis, NSP board director and CEO of Conestoga Energy. "This is an avenue for creating jobs in rural America we so desperately need, and it helps provide energy security from a renewable water-conserving source."

Tim Lust, CEO of the National Sorghum Producers, said the ruling would allow some ethanol plants in the Plains to get back into using sorghum as a feedstock because they will be able to sell their oil as well.

"Certainly, this is a win-win for the environment," Lust said. "Sorghum is a water-sipping crop."

EPA also noted that distillers sorghum oil right now "is still a relatively niche product" with the potential to produce 12 million to 21 million gallons of biofuels from the oil annually. Still, there are nine ethanol plants already extracting oil from sorghum and other facilities will be able to do the same.

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said he hoped the action would signal that Wheeler would deal with the backlog of other pathways for renewable fuels to qualify for advanced biofuels or cellulosic products, "which will help expand the market for low-carbon biofuels and meaningfully contribute to RFS compliance in the near term," Dinneen said.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

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Chris Clayton