Mariko Ogawa is Assistant Manager, Ethanol for Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation. Stationed out of Tokyo, Ogawa is visiting Mitsubishi operations in the United States. During her stop in Onida, Ogawa says of Ringneck Energy CEO Walt Wendland, “Walter was kind enough to let me visit his plant to learn about ethanol production.”
While at University, Ogawa was studying chemistry, but says that she became interested in business, too. “I started off in chemistry in the lab, but I decided I wanted to do business in chemistry, not lab.”
She applied for a position with Mitsubishi. “There are about 150 people entering the company every year,” said Ogawa. Although there was no guarantee of where she would be placed, Ogawa says that she told Human Resources “I want to do a chemistry related job near the plants where the raw ingredients are.”
After working in methanol for three years, Ogawa “got transferred to ethanol. I’ve been doing that for one year now.”
The visit to the Ringneck Energy ethanol plant has been invaluable to Ogawa. “I’m working at my desk in Tokyo every day, and I don’t see what’s going on in an ethanol plant,” said Ogawa. Since no ethanol is produced in Japan, Ogawa incorporated a visit to Ringneck Energy into her United States tour in order “to see what goes on in actual ethanol plants. There were things I hadn’t realized from reading about ethanol production. This has been a really good learning experience for me.” The United States is the largest producer of ethanol in the world.
Recently made policy changes in Japan have opened markets for ETBE, a gasoline component made from ethanol. Mitsubishi is expanding its corporate interests to include ethanol production.
“We’ve been very interested in Ringneck,” said Ogawa. “It’s very new technology at Ringneck.”
The Ringneck Energy plant is “one of the newest ones in the United States,” and its use of the new technology makes it “very efficient.”
Just as Mitsubishi is interested in expanding its own interests in ethanol, Ringneck is hoping to market to Japan. According to Janet Wendland, who on behalf of Ringneck Energy is serving as an ambassador to Ogawa, “Ringneck marketers decide where our product goes.” The company has been trying to break into the California market, but Wendland says that regulations in California make that challenging. “If we could get into California, our ethanol could go from there to Japan.” Other avenues for exporting Ringneck ethanol include through the Gulf of Mexico and from the Pacific Northwest.
Of the sightseeing she has done while visiting here, “I really like the community feel here,” said Ogawa.
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