There are many biorefining innovations taking place in the ethanol industry. During the 25th Annual Ethanol Conference, three company representatives discussed the research and technologies they were implementing or studying to increase the value of the ethanol production process.
Steve McNinch with Western Plains Energy said his company is looking at how to move into the advanced biofuels category of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). The biorenfinery, which produces ethanol from sorghum (milo), is currently installing technology to produce methane. His plant is also researching anaerobic digestion technologies that convert waste to energy. In addition, the plant is adding methane technology that will allow the plant to stop using natural gas as its electricity source and improve the ethanol’s carbon intensity score.
You can view Steve McNinch’s presentation here and also listen to his remarks: click here: Ethanol and AD Integration to
Produce Advanced Biofuel
There are several ways you can make your biorefinery more efficient whether you operate a corn ethanol plant or a milo ethanol plant. Dough Rivers with ICM presented one way you can get from first generation corn to second generation cellulose while using the same biorefinery infrastructure. The first way to get from a dry grind plant is to start doing some things to recover more of your starch to convert more of your targeted end product. ICM has developed a Selective Milling Technology that bolts onto the current plant and increases both ethanol yield and corn oil yield. The company is also developing a fiber separation technology. From here you can start thinking about converting fiber to ethanol and collecting cellulosic RINs (Renewable Identification Number). Today ICM is testing its technologies in its pilot plant and expects to be offering the ethanol industry bolt-on cellulosic technologies soon.
Highwater Ethanol is one of the last ethanol facilities built in the U.S and the biorefinery is looking at moving into advanced biofuels via isobutanol (biobutanol). CEO Brian Kletscher discussed the current challenges and opportunities with isobutanol. Today ethanol plants have financial pressures, marketing challenges and a cap on first generation ethanol in the RFS2. The industry needs a solution and Highwater Ethanol believes isobutanol is one solution. That is why they signed on as an early adopter with Butamax. Isobutanol has several advantages over ethanol: attractive gasoline blending opportunities; it enables the refineries to increase the use of gasoline out of a barrel of oil up to three percent; it also has some advantages in its molecule. Now that Highwater Ethanol is on board with the technology, its next step is to pursue permitting and begin retrofitting in 2013.