Tech breakthroughs for ethanol and feed

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There were several technology advances for ethanol production and associated business opportunities announced during the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo last week in St. Louis.

A new yeast—TransFerm Yield+—developed by Lallemand, has consistently demonstrated ethanol yield improvements of up to 4 percent. TransFerm Yield+ works by expressing GA enzymes and by significantly reducing the amount of glycerol production during fermentation via an alternative ethanol pathway that has been inserted in the yeast. This pathway creates more ethanol with no increase in the amount of corn needed.

Bill Nankervis, president of Lallemand Specialties Division, said, “We believe that the bottom line benefit to the average ethanol plant will be measured in millions of dollars.”

Novozymes made an even more impressive claim by introducing two new enzyme technologies. The company says new enzymes used in an ethanol production facility can increase ethanol yield from corn by up to 5 percent, and the technology also can increase corn oil extraction by 13 percent, while saving 8 percent in energy costs, according to the company announcement. 

The efficiency improvements can be achieved when two new enzymes, Spirizyme Achieve and Olexa, are used together with another Novozymes enzyme, Avantec, the company explained. 

“These new enzyme innovations offer strong benefits to ethanol producers,” said Andrew Fordyce, executive vice president for business operations at Novozymes. “It allows our customers to make more from less and substantially improve their profit margins”.

Related to ethanol and the feedstock used was an announcement by Archer Daniels Midland spokesmen that the company’s new Second Crop treatment process transforms crop waste such as corn stover into a cost-effective replacement for corn in cattle feed. The process treats crop residues with hydrated lime, creating a second harvest of feed from the same crop.

So, while efforts to turn crop wastes and other cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol have been disappointing in terms of cost competitiveness with corn, there may now be even bigger profit potential making those crop residues cost competitive with corn as livestock feed!

The ADM process can also be used on wheat straw and other fibrous feedstocks. Within a week after the treatment, the stover can be used in cattle feed, replacing up to 20 percent of the corn in the cattle diet and offering a cost-effective alternative for ranchers facing high corn prices. And by adding protein-rich supplements, such as wet or dry distillers grains to the treated stover, a cattle feeder can replace up to 70 percent of the corn in the feed ration.

It’s a clever “triple play” for a huge ethanol maker like ADM. It gives them 1) a hot new product to sell, 2) a potentially bigger market for their DDGs, and 3) weakens the case of those making the “food vs. fuel” argument to attack Renewable Fuels Standard usage mandates.

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Peter Sandfort    
Cincinnati, OH  |  June, 17, 2013 at 04:17 PM

You left out the main advantage: Using stover with DDGS to replace corn frees up a huge amount of corn for other uses. As such technologies gain common use and as corn yield gains continue their inexorable annual increases, we will soon be in a surplus corn position again, wondering what the Big Oil / Big Grocery disinformation campaign was all about.


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