How Cellulosic is Rising from Corn: Investing in Cellulosic Production Could Improve Profit Gargins at Corn Ethanol Plants
by Kris Bevill (Ethanol Producer Magazine) The once futuristic vision of integrating traditional and second-generation ethanol facilities appears more attainable as various companies emerge with technology improvements that will allow corn ethanol producers to add cellulosic ethanol streams without taking on insurmountable piles of debt.
Edeniq Inc. was one of the first companies to promote the concept of integrated production. The Visalia, Calif.-based company has been developing technology for that purpose since its inception seven years ago. “That was the purpose of Edeniq—how do you take a process for cellulosic and convert it in a lowest-cost manner and integrate with a corn ethanol plant?” says Brian Thome, Edeniq president and CEO. With help from a $25 million U.S. DOE cost-sharing program, Edeniq has constructed a pilot-scale Corn-to-Cellulose Migration plant in Visalia in order to further perfect the concept. Completion of the plant was celebrated with an official ribbon cutting at the plant to celebrate its completion on June 26, but the facility actually began producing cellulosic ethanol at the end of March.
…Thome’s company has spoken to many plant leaders who say they want to be the fourth or fifth plant to add cellulosic technology to their process stream, after someone else has taken the leap to be the first to try it.
… Thome says Edeniq is certain that corn ethanol producers will be the key to introducing cellulosic ethanol to the market by way of adding cellulosic streams to their existing facilities. “We believe firmly, as do a number of other companies, that we need to utilize the assets that are in the ground and the billions of dollars that have been deployed in our industry, as well as the expertise and operations and knowledge base of the corn ethanol industry, to add cellulosic to existing ethanol plants,” he says. There are challenges, of course, such as feedstock logistics and the formation of inhibitors in the cellulosic process, but Thome says Edeniq is addressing those issues and he believes they can be overcome. “We know, based on everything we’ve done, that you can integrate a portion of cellulosic materials, whether it’s sugar or otherwise, directly into the process and make some changes to fermentation [and] the effluent byproduct usage that are extremely beneficial to the plants and help them increase revenue and drive margins, which they need right now,” he says.
… “The name of the game is to increase your ethanol throughput in order to meet the demand,” he (Barry Wortzman, vice president of business development at GreenField Ethanol, Inc.) says, adding that while corn yields may continue to increase, the amount of corn that can be used at ethanol facilities will still be limited. Therefore, it is necessary for producers to incorporate technologies into their facilities that will broaden their range of usable feedstocks. In the case of Greenfield’s technology, that will likely include corn stover and cobs, but the equipment has also been tested on a variety of energy crops and other sources of biomass, including poplar trees. READ MORE