Company bets that corn ethanol and cellulose ethanol will work well together

(From a press release, “Plans for ethanol plant near Jamestown changed,” posted: March 29, 2011 4:45 PM by Dakota Spirit AgEnergy)

Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, a proposed cellulosic biorefinery near Spiritwood, N.D., has evolved from a 20 million gallon per year (MGY) cellulosic ethanol plant into a 58 MGY “hybrid” ethanol plant comprised of a 50 MGY dry mill ethanol plant (Phase I) and an 8 MGY cellulosic ethanol addition (Phase II).

The changes are driven in part by the results of a recently completed “Feedstock Supply and Product Marketing Study” that was funded in part by the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission (APUC).

“This project is a good example of our ongoing efforts to create new markets for our farmers, to add value to our quality products, to create new jobs and to help the nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil,” Governor Jack Dalrymple said. “The biorefinery will be part of a larger, integrated energy project that will utilize steam power from Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station combined heat and power plant.”

The hybrid approach provides better economies of scale – reducing both capital and feedstock costs – and makes a stronger overall project.

The feedstock study showed that Dakota Spirit AgEnergy would need corn stover plus wheat straw from an expanded 100 mile radius to adequately source enough residue material for a 20 MGY cellulosic biorefinery. The amount of residue needed from such a large area was a limiting factor for a plant of this size.

The product market study verified the market values for the three main product streams – ethanol, molasses and lignin – across various market applications.

The 50 MGY conventional ethanol plant would utilize corn to produce ethanol, corn oil and dried distillers grains. The 8 MGY second-generation ethanol plant would utilize corn stover and wheat straw to produce cellulosic ethanol, C5 molasses, and lignin, a boiler fuel.

The “Feedstock Supply and Product Marketing Study” summary report (APUC Project BD0009-15) is available online at http://www.DakotaSpiritAgEnergy.com.

Our Take:
People looking for answers to America’s changing energy needs often adopt a narrow focus and seem to ask what is the (one) thing that will replace our dependence on foreign oil?
The best answer is not to become dependent on one thing at all. Certainly not one source. As the technology develops, a single biorefinery will take in numerous products from the farm, forest and prairie and process them, not only into energy, but into other products–that kind of diversity ensures longterm success.
This will be achieved at a much lower cost to the environment, and, because it is domestic production it means building the strength of our jobs base and our economy.

We see more examples daily of how biomass can replace oil to power our industries and our daily lives. The new hybrid plant in Jamestown, North Dakota could become a very broadly adopted pattern. Notice that the products of this biorefinery are not limited to ethanol: like most ethanol plants today it will also produce a high value animal feed product called distillers grains. And it also plans to produce corn oil and molasses. This diversity of products will help ensure the plant’s future success–that’s the kind of success that keeps farmers in business and keeps small-town Mainstreet alive.

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