Cellulosic BioFuel Is Here
ADJUSTING TO HIGH CORN PRICES
Finding a stabler priced source of feedstock is the goal of many in the grain-based ethanol industry. Although most are focusing on post harvest corn biomass or corn stover, one is focusing on fiber in the grain. Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) plans to be producing cellulosic ethanol along with its starch-based ethanol by fall of 2013. The change is going to make adjusting to higher corn prices easier, initially for QCCP and eventually for other corn processors.
Travis Brotherson Thanks to a breakthrough in the fermentation process discovered by company engineer Travis Brotherson, ethanol production will increase by at least 6 percent and as much as 10 percent. Corn oil yield will more than triple from 0.5 lbs. per bushel to 1.6 lbs. per bushel.
The only downside is that co-product tonnage, today known as distiller grains, will decrease by about 15 percent. On the plus side, the new co-product becomes a high-protein, low-fiber feed product that can be used in ruminant diets and is expected to be much more digestible by pigs, poultry and other monogastric animals. Brotherson expects demand will rise for the new byproduct as livestock producers get experience with it, much as happened with distillers grains. He also expects demand to rise for the process.
"We will work on building the system here and letting people see the results," said Brotherson. "In the near time frame, we will be talking to other plants. Our plan is to commercialize it at other facilities in the future."
BANKING ON RFS
While cellulosic biofuel feedstocks and processing technologies differ across the board, one thing unites the advanced biofuels industry and the traditional grain-based industry. "The RFS is the keystone for where we are right now," said McAdams. "It is eminently important that it stay in place and that the federal government send a strong signal of support for it."
He pointed to the billions of dollars being invested by private industry, as well as the grants, loans and loan guarantees already made by the U.S. government. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded $800 million for advanced biofuels. As a result of those funds, private investors and creative new technologies, McAdams suggested that the country is well on its way to greater energy security, though there is a considerable way to go.
"It's like we're in the second quarter of the game," said McAdams. "It's kind of hard if the rules are changed before we even reach the middle of the game."
Leong agreed with McAdams, even though he pointed out there is a differentiation between corn-based biofuel and other feedstock-based biofuels. "Our position and that of a lot of others is that it isn't appropriate to touch the RFS," said Leong. "It has served the country well, and it is a policy that is important to our industry."