Increasing Ethanol Yield

cutc-14-novozymesOne way enzyme technology can help ethanol plants is by yielding more ethanol per bushel of corn.

At the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, Nathan Kreel with Novozymes talked about Olexa, a unique enzyme designed for oil recovery. “We developed it mainly to enhance corn oil extraction for the customer, but we are seeing there are a lot of other benefits,” he said. That includes an increase in ethanol yield, better yeast health, and more efficient fermentation.

“The most important thing is that we see back end process improvements with an average of 13% oil increase,” Kreel said. “It’s a simple drop-in product that is added right to the fermentation and you can see improvements right when it’s used.”

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nathan Kreel, Novozymes

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Oxygenate from Ethanol and Corn

xfxF Technologies Inc. is an advanced biofuel company that has developed a chemical process to convert corn or biomass plus alcohol (especially ethanol or methanol) into an oxygenate that can be blended with gasoline and diesel.

cutc-14-rob-randle“It’s a completely chemical process – no enzymes, no bacteria, no fermentation,” said Bob Randle of xF Technologies, who spoke at the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. The end products are furoates – from either ethanol, methanol or butanol – that can then be used as oxygenates for fuel transportation to improve mileage, reduce emissions, increase lubricity, and more.

Randle says the technology offers co-location and add-on opportunities for ethanol and corn wet milling plants. “Because our primary feedstocks are corn and ethanol, or biomass and ethanol,” he said. “We can also be co-located with a cellulosic ethanol plant as well.”

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Bob Randle, xF Technologies

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Edeniq Stresses Cellulosic Ethanol is Here

edeniqAt the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference last week, Steve Rust with Edeniq talked about new processing technology and products taking ethanol to the next level.

“Cellulosic ethanol is for real now,” says Rust. “People need to know that because this is key right now with discussions on the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

rust-headRust says new technology like Edeniq’s PATHWAY Platform is helping to make cellulosic ethanol a reality. “We have a piece of equipment that pre-treats the slurry in a corn ethanol plant and then we add a helper enzyme in it that we co-fermentate cellulosic and corn ethanol in the same fermenter,” he explained. “The nice thing about our technology is that it can be used in any dry mill ethanol plant for them to be able to get cellulosic gallons for a small capitol investment.”

Interview with Steve Rust, Edeniq

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Gen 1.5 – Corn Fiber to Ethanol

scott-kohlSomewhere between corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol is a midpoint that can be found in the corn kernel.

“Generation one is starch to ethanol and generation two is corn stover and grasses but there is cellulose in the corn kernel,” explained ICM, Inc. technical director Scott Kohl during a session last week at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. “That’s the Generation 1.5 – the fiber in the corn kernel.”

Kohl says ICM is developing processes to separate that fiber from the rest of the kernel to make more ethanol so that the yield from a single bushel of corn will increase. “We’ve run nearly 2,000 hours of pilot runs on that system,” he said. “We are now in the process of getting the financing arranged to have the first plant running by the middle of 2015.” Interview with Scott Kohl, ICM

It was just announced last week that Patriot Renewable Fuels of Annawan, Illinois will be one of the first to use Gen 1.5 with ICM’s patent-pending Fiber Separation Technology (FST). “ICM’s ethanol technology is a logical platform on which to build our business as a bio refinery” said Patriot’s VP/GM Rick Vondra. “There are many new product and growth possibilities using corn as our feedstock, and we have identified these as two high potential processes that we can adopt now.”

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Wet and Dry Milling Focus of Conference

cutc-14-martinThe 2014 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference is underway in Louisville, Kentucky and this year the focus is on wet and dry milling technologies and new uses.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) president Martin Barbre says the event brings together researchers with the common goal of facilitating the next ground-breaking technologies and corn-based products of the future. “It’s a great place for researchers to see what others are doing,” he said. “We also have a very good international focus with visitors and attendees from all four corners of the world.”

As corn growers are just about finished planting what is expected to be another record crop this year, Barbre says they are happy to see increased export demand for corn and the ethanol co-product distillers grains. “When you put an ethanol plant in, it doesn’t change the market (for corn),” he said. “Really there’s only two things that change the market – weather and exports. We’re working hard to increase corn exports worldwide and we’re even working with other countries to open up new markets.” Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Adding Value To Ethanol Byproducts

Researchers are looking for ways to get more value out of the byproducts of ethanol production, and thus, making the production of the green fuel more efficient and cost effective. During the recent Corn Utilization Technology Conference, USDA’s Kurt Spokas presented his ideas of getting more value out of those ethanol byproducts. He’s been working with the Minnesota Corn Growers on a project that converts distillers grains into various bio byproducts that are of higher value than the grains themselves.

“With the microwave-assisted pyrolysis, [we] convert very wet biomass over to an actual higher value product in both a bio-oil materials that have the building blocks for other uses, as well as a biochar, which we hope to actually utilize for sustaining our agricultural production,” he said. In the second year of this project, Spokas said it is going very well and is hoping to have field plots to see what larger scale impacts could be.

Spokas wants farmers to see all the different ways corn can be used… and what the future holds. “We thought we had a good picture of all the various products that were possible, but now we’re beginning to see that was only the beginning or the tip of the iceberg.”

Listen to an interview with Kurt here: Interview with Kurt Spokas

The Future for Corn Stover in Biofuels

The future of using corn stover for advanced biofuels was one of the discussion topics at last week’s Corn Utilization Technology Conference in Indianapolis.

Nathan Mosier with the Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering at Purdue University, told the conference that the corn refining industry has done a great job of using the corn kernel to create various value-added products. He’s working on similar developments with corn stover “to break it into its constituents in a way that allows us to add value and produce more products that can be sold.”

Mosier says he’s been working with several companies, like Mascoma, that are getting close to commercial applications that would be used to make cellulosic ethanol. “We’re making a lot of advances in being able to launch the very first products, but I think there’s a lot of opportunities for higher value products that may be lower volume, but in the context of a biorefinery where we can use materials like corn stover instead of petroleum to make not only fuels, but specialty chemicals, plastics and polymers.”

Listen to an interview with Nathan Mosier from CUTC here: Interview with Nathan Mosier

2012 CUTC Photo Album

Corn Utilization Agenda Includes Biofuels and Refineries

Since it is an even-numbered year, that means the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) will be held this year.

cutcThe 2012 CUTC agenda features cutting-edge technologies and new uses that are positioned change the corn industry. Among the session topics is Advance Biofuels, which will highlight some of the most recent research on advanced biofuels. Speakers will cover thermochemical and biochemical and biomimetic routes to the pretreatment and hydrolysis of lignocellulosics (such as corn fiber hulls, corn stover, etc.) to produce sugar and phenolic monomers that can be further upgraded to synthetic fuels, bioethanol, and/or chemicals.

Technical sessions will also focus on the future of Biorefineries, which will be critical in replacing products that have traditionally been produced using fossil fuels. Recent technical and engineering advances in the production of renewable fuels and bio-based chemicals will be discussed as well as the development of next generation biofuels such as Biobutanol.

“We are proud of CUTC’s position as the premier corn technology conference in the United States and of the many learning opportunities that we will offer,” said NCGA Research and Business Development Action Team Chair DeVonna Zeug. “But the conference offers much more including incredibly important networking opportunities. By exchanging ideas with people who have common interests, we create the hybrid of new technology and new ideas.”

Registration is now open for CUTC, which will be held this year at the Westin Indianapolis in downtown Indianapolis, Ind., June 4-6.

Iowa Dominates First Half of Grid Iron Game

I arrived in Iowa City last night to some wet and dreary conditions. But new Iowa Corn Growers President, Dean Taylor, promised that not only are Iowa corn farmers experts at growing our food, they are also experts at moving out the rain and bringing in blue skies when needed. Well, I’ll be, but Taylor was exactly right! It is a beautiful day in Iowa City for the Iowa State versus Iowa football game. The Iowa Corn Growers are a sponsor of the Cy-Hawk series and have been engaging in a fun promotion called Iowa Corn Fed Game Day, where fans are being educated on the very important role Iowa corn farmers play.

I’ve had a blast hanging out with over 900 of Iowa’s corn farmers and maybe what has been most fun, was being on the field for kickoff. Iowa won the coin toss and so Iowa State kicked off the game. So far, Iowa has dominated – the score is 28 to 0 after the first half.

Prior to the game, I spent time at the Krause Family Plaza and took pictures of the thousands of fans who signed up to for a chance to win $5,000 in food or $2,500 in free fuel. They also played a ginormous game of corn hole (see Iowa Corn Fed Game Day photo album.”), as well as a grocery store game. Players had the chance to win t-shirts, koozies and key chains and by the time the game started, thousands of people were sporting their new Iowa Corn Fed Game Day t-shirts.

During the pre-game festivities, the Iowa Corn executive board members were invited on to the field as a thank you for their support of Iowa and Iowa State athletics. They were also thanked for all they do to feed and fuel our country. Earlier in the day, Dick Gallager, Chairman of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, noted both Iowa State’s and Iowa’s tie to agriculture. Iowa State has one of the top ag programs in the country, while Iowa’s helmets say anf, which stands for America needs farmers.

Well, let’s hope the second half goes better for ISU….

You can see pictures from game day in the Iowa Corn Fed Game Day photo album.

Corn Growers Stress Ethanol Efficiency Gains

cutcRecent studies show the significant efficiencies spurred by growth and development in the ethanol industry, according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

“As we see it, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said NCGA First Vice President Bart Schott. “Ethanol has proven to be an advantageous green alternative to foreign and ecologically precarious sources of petroleum. These studies illustrate that innovations in agriculture and ethanol production will only further enhance ethanol’s desirability as an energy resource worthy of continued support.”

Some of that research was presented at the recent 2010 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) in Atlanta. Dr. Steffen Mueller, Principal Research Economist for the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, did two presentations at the CUTC, both related to the increasing efficiency of ethanol production that continues to improve its carbon footprint under life cycle analysis. For one, Mueller says, the more useful co-products that can result from ethanol production, the better its carbon footprint.

cutc“With corn ethanol you also produce an animal feed product simultaneously, to which you have to assign a co-product credit, meaning you subtract the emissions to produce that feed product from the life cycle of corn ethanol,” Steffen explained in an interview. “Now, we’re also looking at other co-products. For example, a lactate which is a solvent that can substitute for petroleum-based solvents in the marketplace.”

Mueller also presented his findings from a recent study showing how ethanol plants are improving in efficiency. “We did a large survey of corn ethanol plants and assessed the energy consumption and showed that the thermal and electric energy that plants require to turn bushels of corn into corn ethanol has decreased by 30 percent over the last eight years,” he said. (read about that survey here)

Mueller says there is a lot of updated industry data coming together that shows that corn ethanol is becoming more efficient, which should help when it comes to regulations for low carbon emissions on both the national level and in states like California.

Listen to or download an interview Chuck Zimmerman did with Steffen Mueller at CUTC here: Steffen Mueller Interview