Ethanol processing -- growing by the gallon

by Suzi Fraser
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A unique new research facility will play a major role in commercializing new technologies for producing corn ethanol more cost effectively.

By Suzi Fraser Dominy

A U.S.$20 million ethanol pilot research plant is scheduled to start up in August at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois, U.S. The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Pilot Plant has been 10 years in planning but when it opens its doors next month, it will provide corn growers and the ethanol industry with a unique research resource that will bridge the gap between science and industry.

"We have known how to make ethanol for a long time — in fact when Henry Ford designed the Model T, he expected that it would be fueled by ethanol — but the cost of production has always held it back," the plant’s director, Dr. Rodney Bothast said.

"Our focus will be on finding ways to bring the cost down."

The need for applied research in this area has never been greater as ethanol plants are being built at a record pace. A dozen have started construction in the U.S. this year alone (see Table above). The Renewable Fuels Standard, which will likely be adopted into law this fall, will mandate that U.S. ethanol production rise to 5 billion gallons by 2012, from a level of 2.1 billion gallons in 2001. "This, along with a need to become less dependent on foreign oil, increased awareness of environmental issues and promotion of our rural economies are the drivers behind this facility," Bothast said.

ONE-OF-A-KIND CAPABILITY

This plant is unique, Bothast emphasized. "It is the only facility of its kind anywhere in the world — a complete corn wet mill and corn dry mill ethanol pilot production facility." This is important for two reasons. On the one hand there is a swing away from traditional wet milling toward dry milling, so there is a need to be able to research and scale-up both processes. On the other hand, it allows for the full range of ethanol co-products to be researched for novel applications and for the development of entirely new ones.

Bothast, a microbiologist, is excited by the promise of emerging science to deliver tailor-made grains for specific applications. "In the future, biotechnology will allow corn to be grown that will give higher yields of ethanol; corn with specific nutraceutical or pharmaceutical traits will yield specific co-products. With molecular biology, enzyme and yeast technology and other advanced techniques, this facility will equip us to develop value-added products that will give a better return than commodity-status feed ingredients such as distillers dried grains and gluten meals."

The facility has already created a stir in the ethanol industry: Bothast has recently received visitors from as far away as the U.K., Japan and South Africa and is looking forward to collaborating on ethanol research with partners from around the globe.

Ethanol plants under construction since January 2003

COMPANY

PARTNERS/ OWNERS

LOCATION

CONTRACTOR

Trenton Agri Products,LLC

Managing partner: Berexco, Inc.,Wichita, Kansas, an oil and gas production company

Trenton, Nebraska

ICM Inc., Colwich, Kansas

²Central Illinois Energy Cooperative

Farmer owned

Canton, Illinois

Lurgi PSI, Inc., Memphis, Tenessee

Otter Creek Ethanol, LLC

Farmer owned

Ashton, Iowa

The Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux River Ethanol, LLC

Farmer owned

Hudson, South Dakota

The Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Utica Energy, LLC

-

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Agra Construction, Merrill, Wisconsin; process design by Delta-T Corp. of Williamsburg, Virginia.

James Valley Ethanol, LLC

Farmer owned

Groton, South Dakota

The Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Western Plains Energy, LLC

Farmer owned

Campus, Kansas

ICM, Inc., Colwich, Kansas

Little Sioux Corn Processors, LP

Farmer owned

Marcus, Iowa

Fagen, Inc., Granite Falls, Minnesota; process design: ICM, Inc., Colwich, Kansas

Iowa Ethanol, LLC

Farmer owned

Hanlontown, Iowa

The Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Great Plains Ethanol, LLC (pictured on the cover)

Farmer owned

Chancellor, South Dakota

The Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; process design: ICM, Inc., Colwich, Kansas

Lincolnland Agri-Energy, LLC

Farmer owned

Robinson, Illinois

Fagen, Inc., Granite Falls, Minnesota; process design: ICM, Inc., Colwich, Kansas

VeraSun Energy Corporation

-

Aurora, South Dakota

Fagen, Inc., Granite Falls, Minnesota

COMPANY

PRODUCTION CAPACITY P/A

COMMENT

Trenton Agri Products,LLC

- 11 million bu corn -30 million gallons ethanol - 96,000 tons of DDGS¹

Nebraska has 1 new ethanol plant beginning production this year and 3 more under construction

²Central Illinois Energy Cooperative

- 11 million bu corn -30 million gallons ethanol - 96,000 tons of DDGS

Illinois has 5 ethanol plants and 2 under construction

Otter Creek Ethanol, LLC

- nearly 16 million bu corn - 45 million gallons ethanol -135,000 tons Dakota Gold Plus DDGS

Iowa has 12 ethanol plants and 4 under construction

Sioux River Ethanol, LLC

- nearly 16 million bu corn - 45 million gallons ethanol -135,000 tons Dakota Gold Plus DDGS

South Dakota has 9 ethanol plants and 2 under construction

Utica Energy, LLC

- 8 million bu corn - 20 million gallons ethanol - 175,000 tons of distillers wet grains

Formerly known as Algoma Ethanol The plant will also capture 175 tonnes of CO2 per day.

James Valley Ethanol, LLC

- 16 million bu corn - 45 million gallons ethanol - 135,000 tons Dakota Gold Plus DDGS

South Dakota has 9 ethanol plants and 2 under construction

Western Plains Energy, LLC

- 11 million bu corn and grain sorghum - 30 million gallons of ethanol - 90,000 tons DDGS

Kansas has 4 existing ethanol plants

Little Sioux Corn Processors, LP

- 15 million bu corn - 40 million gallons of ethanol - 120,000 tons DDGS

Iowa has 12 ethanol plants and 4 under construction

Iowa Ethanol, LLC

- 16 million bu corn - 45 million gallons ethanol - 135,000 tons Dakota Gold Plus DDGS

Iowa has 12 ethanol plants and 4 under construction

Great Plains Ethanol, LLC (pictured on the cover)

- 15 million bu corn - 40 million gallons ethanol - 120,000 tons DDGS

South Dakota has 9 ethanol plants and 2 under construction

Lincolnland Agri-Energy, LLC

- 15 million bu corn - 40 million gallons ethanol - 120,000 tons DDGS

Illinois has 5 ethanol plants and 2 under construction

VeraSun Energy Corporation

- over 35 million bu corn - 100 million gallons ethanol - 320,000 tons DDGS

Will be one of the largest dry mill ethanol plants in the United States.

 

1DDGS: distillers dried grains with solubles

2To learn more about the plant, visit: www.CentralIllinoisEnergy.com.

Source: Renewable Fuels Association

Currently, 73 ethanol plants in the U.S. have the capacity to produce 2.9 billion gallons annually.

 

The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Pilot Plant will allow efficient tests of new equipment, technology, processing and feedstocks. Process modules comprise corn receiving and storage, milling, germ and fiber separation, starch and gluten separation, co-product drying, steep water evaporation, starch cooking, saccharification and fermentation. Automatic data recording is integrated with automatic control. The plant has a full support laboratory. Daily plant capacity reaches 200 bushels of corn usage with 500 gallons per day average ethanol output through dry or wet grinding and is planned to operate for at least 100 days per year. The U.S.$20 million dollar research pilot plant will be online in August. Located at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois, U.S., the plant will focus research on ethanol co-product applications and will evaluate corn ethanol manufacturing to compare the dry milling and wet milling processes.

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