Archive for the ‘Dried Distillers Grains’ Category

E3 posters provide forum for MCGA-sponsored research

Project to increase ethanol yield, value of DDGS “comes at the perfect time”

By Jonathan Eisenthal

While we worry about the general public getting the facts on distillers grains—namely that ethanol plants make feed as well as fuel—the E3 conference provides a great forum for sharing information and creating excitement among renewable energy scientists and entrepreneurs about MCGA-sponsored research in the biofuels field, including an exciting project that promises to enhance ethanol production profitability.

The kind of exposure found at E3 can leverage additional funding, and help make matches that will lead to commercialization.

The annual E3 Conference on Renewable Energy Innovation, which took place last week Monday, brought together hundreds of scientific researchers, graduate students and private industry representatives at the University of Minnesota to share the latest developments. A key medium for this information exchange is the display of research project posters.

Among those presentations getting attention was the poster of Dr. Pavel Krasutsky, who leads a team at University of Minnesota Duluth that is developing technology that separates the oils from distillers grains and processes them into ethanol and biodiesel while it renders the distillers grains a more purely high-protein feed. Economic analysis of the technology estimates a significant return.  Their project is called Development and Commercialization of a Biorefinery for Processing DDGS in Biofuels and Other Value-Added Products.

The technology can be bolted on an existing plant or included in new construction, at a cost of about $30 million. Using this technology, an acre of corn would produce 440 gallons of ethanol–a ten percent increase—and in addition it would yield 35 gallons of biodiesel. The resulting distillers grains offer a higher protein concentration, from the current industry standard of 28 percent, up to 40 percent. The process also removes water from the distillers grains, making transport more economical. An additional high value product, corn zein, could be derived—this is a clear substance that can be sprayed on fruits and vegetables to enhance their appeal and preserve them during transit and on the store shelf. The value of these products would repay the investment in about two years, according to Krasutsky, who noted that agribusiness giant ADM has approached the team and expressed interest.

“With the blender’s credit likely going away, this model of ethanol production becomes very important,” said Riley Maanum, MCGA Research and Project director. He pointed to an economic analysis that found that this technology could increase the returns to an ethanol plant by approximately ten percent.

Throughout the day, conference participants view the posters, and have the opportunity to chat with the researchers, who stand beside the posters, ready to offer additional information. Five research projects sponsored by MCGA were displayed.

The E3 conference is put on by University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, IREE, along with supporters like MCGA.

IREE explicitly offers the forum to help funders and high quality projects find each other. The conference program noted that IREE “seeks out promising new renewable energy ideas and provides them with the resources needed to bring them to life. Since 2003, IREE has invested nearly $37 million in more than 240 promising research projects. This investment has not only enhanced our energy security, but also generated jobs and more than $69 million in additional funding.”