“Adding Value To Ethanol Byproducts”

by John Davis, posted on DomesticFuels.com

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.”

Go to Domestic Fuels web page to listen to an interview with Kurt Spokas


Our Take:
The phenomenal success of ethanol is a model for ongoing action, and not simply a one-time achievement. The ethanol model of value-added agriculture offers a response to the ever-increasing yield of corn by channeling fractions of it into value-added uses.

The expanding portfolio of uses keeps the market for corn strong (so that farmers have the incentive they need to continue to grow more and more food) and incentivizes the scientific research that continues the positive trend line for corn production.

Not all uses are equal, but the judicious use of research funding for bio-oils and biochar is an all-around winner.


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