An ethanol plant that stops looking for ways to diversify its business and improve its profits is an ethanol plant that will drown faster in bad weather. A new option for the ethanol industry to diversify is to add a biodiesel plant to the end of its corn oil extraction technology. This idea lends itself one step closer to a true biorefinery.
So what is the value proposition of doing this? Profits, as Mark Fashian, president of Ethanol Analytical Solutions (EAS) and Biodiesel Analytical Solutions (BAS) explained to me during a Skype interview following the Fuel Ethanol Workshop recently held in Indianapolis, Indiana. For example, Fashian said a 100 million gallon per year ethanol plant will sell 100 million RINS. By adding a 3 million gallon biodiesel plant you’ll make your plant more valuable because each of these gallons is worth 1.5 RINS, or an additional 4.5 million in total.
With demand for biodiesel increasing and the need for more gallons (the biodiesel industry is still ramping up after the one year loss of the $1 per gallon tax credit in 2009), Fashian said this is the perfect storm for the ethanol industry.
You can listen to my full interview with Mark Fashian here: Diversifying the Ethanol Industry with Biodiesel
He also noted that one drawback to using corn oil for biodiesel is that it has a high acidic content, around 27.5 percent, and because of this it is hard to convert. Most plants use a two-step process to achieve this.
“It’s a lot of redo a batch, do a batch again because we didn’t get it just right, and that’s not what the ethanol industry is looking for,” said Fashian. “They’re looking for the silver bullet where you can take that corn oil right from the extractor and put it right in to another process to make biodiesel without having to mess with a second or third run to get the biodiesel to make ASTM grade. And that’s exactly what the McGyan process does. It’s patented for the corn oil process and with their everlasting catalyst you just pump the sample in with either ethanol or methanol and out the other end comes beautiful biodiesel.”
If a plant doesn’t have extraction technology, when all expenses are factored in, the return on investment (ROI) is less than one year, and this includes the lab. I should note that Fashian is also a director of Mcgyan and both EAS/BAS represent the technology. So their team would not only work with the ethanol plant on the biodiesel installation, but also help them update the lab for all the extra tests required for biodiesel and the proper equipment to achieve specs. For those plants who already have extraction technology, the ROI is less than 2 years.
It takes between 12-18 months to get the Mcgyan technology up and running and its already designed to be a perfect fit for an ethanol plant. Oh, and if you decide to sell your corn oil on the market rather than produce biodiesel, you can still produce biodiesel with other feedstocks.