New enzymes increase ethanol production 5%

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Novozymes on Monday introduced new enzyme technology to the general agricultural industry that has far reaching impact, according to the company. 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.”

Based on data quoted by Novozymes, a typical U.S. ethanol plant uses around 36 million bushels (900,000 tons) of feed-grade corn per year to produce 100 million gallons of fuel ethanol, 300,000 tons of animal feed in dried distillers grains with soluble (DDGS) and 8,500 tons of corn oil. By using Avantec, Olexa and Spirizyme Achieve, such a plant can save up to 1.8 million bushels (45,000 tons) of corn while maintaining the same ethanol output, increasing corn oil extraction, and generating up to $5 million in additional profit. 

Avantec actually was introduced in October 2012 and has performed as expected. “Our customers demand risk-free options that do not require major investments,” said Fordyce. “That is exactly what our enzymes offer. We are the first to market this full package and are looking forward to implementing it together with our customers, trialing the technology at their plants, and getting the solutions out there. It’s a competitive industry and only via innovation like this can Novozymes continue to be the leading supplier of enzymes to the ethanol industry."

Corn is the key raw material in biofuel production in the U.S. and by far the biggest cost component for a dry-grind ethanol plant. After the corn is harvested, the kernels are ground into corn meal and water added to make a mash. Enzymes convert the starch in the mash to sugar, which can then be fermented to ethanol. Avantec and Spirizyme Achieve convert starch to sugar more efficiently than any other enzyme product on the market, while Olexa works by freeing up oil bound in the corn germ, the company explained.

Corn oil is used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial uses and has become an increasingly important revenue stream for ethanol producers. Extensive implementation of extraction technology from 2008 to 2012 has seen the industry record a nearly five-fold increase in corn oil production, according to a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago as quoted by Novozymes.

Oil extraction was not part of many early ethanol plants, but Novozymes estimates that approximately 80 percent of the operating ethanol capacity in the U.S. will have incorporated oil extraction into their plants by the end 2013.

Ethanol today accounts for approximately 10 percent of gasoline consumption in the U.S. transportation sector, but those in the ethanol industry continue to push for ethanol to be at least 15 percent of the gasoline sector. Push back comes from livestock producers who contend ethanol from corn has increased their livestock feed costs. With more ethanol per bushel of corn, increased ethanol production can be achieved without taking as much corn out of the feed channel.

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Mike Massey    
Kennewick, WA  |  June, 11, 2013 at 05:12 PM

Given newer technology in corn planting {thanks Steve Jobs for that touch-pad computer} as well as advancements in biotechnology: Big Ag is giving Big Oil a run for their money -- it's about time;).

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