KSU nearly halfway to fundraising goal for new feed mill/ethanol biorefinery

by Arvin Donley
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Kansas State University (KSU) is about halfway to its $10 million fundraising goal, which would finance the design and construction of a new feed mill and ethanol biorefinery in the university’s grain science complex in Manhattan, Kansas, U.S.

Vaughn Studer, senior director of development for KSU’s College of Agriculture, said in January that nearly $5 million had been raised thus far, and the university was talking with potential corporate sponsors in both the feed and biofuels industries whose funding could push the project closer to fruition.

"We believe that K-State will play a central role in bridging the biofuel and feed industries with the development of this one-of-a-kind teaching and research facility," said Fred Cholick, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension.

Studer said that in the fall of 2007 KSU began offering a specialized option to prepare students for careers in biofuels plant operations.

Prominently featured in the ethanol production portion of the new facility, Studer said, will be dry fractionation technology that is used as a pre-fermentation step in the corn ethanol production process. He said the benefit for the biofuels industry will be that they can send their employees to the KSU plant to learn the fractionation process.

He said this will set Kansas State apart from other research and teaching facilities, many of which are focusing on biomass-based ethanol production.

"What this will do is address the issues facing the biofuels industry today," Studer said. "Dry fractionation is corn milling, and you don’t just pull people off the streets to do that. You have to teach a whole new generation today how to do it."

The facility will also include a fermentation/distillation area as well as a value-added feed mill that will include equipment and teaching opportunities that are not currently available at KSU’s feed mill in Shellenberger Hall.

Studer said the proposed facility would be designed so that emerging technologies, such as cellulose, could be added as they become available.

The KSU feed mill project received a major boost in October 2007 when Ronald Kruse, a 1962 Kansas State feed technology graduate, donated $2 million on behalf of the O.H. Kruse family. O.H. Grain and Milling was founded in El Monte, California, U.S. by Ronald’s father, Otto Kruse, in 1935. For more than 70 years, the company has formulated, produced and delivered animal feeds for livestock and companion animals in California, Arizona and the Pacific Rim. In 2000, the Kruse family formed Western Milling in Goshen, California, U.S., under the leadership of Ronald’s son, Kevin Kruse.

The planned facility will join the Hal Ross Flour Mill, built in 2006, as well as the International Grains Program Executive Conference Center and the Bioprocessing Industrial Value-Added Program building, both constructed in 2004, as part of the 16-acre grain science complex.

Studer said once enough funding is secured, it will take about 12 to 18 months to design and construct the facility and install the equipment.

Dirk Maier, recently hired as the new head of KSU’s Department of Grain Science and Industry, said it is imperative that the fundraising for the facility be completed so that the building can be dedicated during the department’s Centennial Celebration during the fall of 2010.

"This facility will be a unique and critical infrastructure addition that will provide the needed hands-on experience of our undergraduate students in feed manufacturing and biorefinery plant operations," Maier said. "This will distinguish our graduates and make them highly sought after professionals. Additionally, it will allow us to link research in biofuels/biomaterials with the utilization of co-products such as DDGS in livestock rations."