ND Ethanol Plant to Run on Borrowed Steam

Cindy Zimmerman

An ethanol plant under construction in North Dakota will be first plant in the country to use steam from a nearby power plant to generate heat instead of having its own boilers.

Blue Flint Ethanol, a joint venture between Great River Energy and Headwaters Incorporated, is in the process of building a 50 million gallon per year dry mill ethanol plant in Underwood, North Dakota – which is about halfway between Bismark and Minot.
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According to the plant’s website, the Blue Flint Ethanol facility is unique in the industry. Most ethanol plants are built with a natural gas-fueled boiler to provide heat for drying. As natural gas prices have increased in recent years, coal-fueled plants have become more common. However, Blue Flint does not have a boiler. Instead, waste heat from the adjacent Coal Creek power plant is redirected to Blue Flint to supply all the heat that a boiler would provide. The result is one of the industry’s most energy efficient, environmentally friendly facilities.

The photo of the plant under construction shows the U-shaped pipes that will carry the steam from the power plant to the ethanol plant.

In an article in the Minot Daily News, general manager Jeff Zueger says, “We’re taking steam and using it directly in the ethanol conversion process. So this is pretty unique.”

Blue Flint Ethanol takes its name from the blue flint corn grown by Indian tribes that once lived in the area near the plant site. They plan to “use corn harvested in the same area as feedstock for its ethanol production, turning an ancient grain into modern automotive fuel.”

Ethanol, Facilities, News