Ethanol Industry is Building Upon What Already Exists

I’ve always believed that America’s advanced biofuels industry will substantially rise from, with or because of, our nation’s standing fleet of corn ethanol plants. This column appears in the May issue of EPM.
By Tom Bryan | April 14, 2016

I’ve always believed that America’s advanced biofuels industry will substantially rise from, with or because of, our nation’s standing fleet of corn ethanol plants. Our critics wish advanced biofuels would go away or spring autonomously from the 15 billion gallons of grain ethanol we already produce. But that flawed logic ignores the fact that our existing ethanol facilities represent one of the best and most suitable places for next-generation biofuels to surface.

Today’s dry mills are getting more out of corn than once thought possible. While cellulosic ethanol from stover, cobs and residual fiber is on the way, these facilities already are producing corn oil and, in a handful of places, biodiesel. “In Duel Fuel,” our May cover story, we catch up with ethanol producers hosting on-site biodiesel production. As freelance journalist Keith Loria reports, the advantages of colocating biodiesel and ethanol production are multifold. By sharing infrastructure, feedstock, process essentials and personnel, biodiesel is clearly a smart play for some producers. 

In fact, it is now exceptional for U.S. ethanol plants not to extract corn oil. The industry’s relatively swift and near-total transition to corn oil removal undeniably has changed the profile of our industry’s chief coproduct. Distillers grains has been altered, and it’s going to take a little while longer to fully understand its various nutritional profiles. In “Wanted: Species Specific, Process Specific, Nutritional Profiles,” EPM Managing Editor Susanne Retka Schill, reports on how these low-oil, low-fiber, high-protein coproducts are finding their optimal market values while animal nutritionists revise their data sheets and assumptions.  

Next, in “Protein Packs A Punch,” EPM’s outbound managing editor Holly Jessen—who left BBI in March to pursue full-time parenting—collaborates with our editorial intern, Kassidi Andres, on a profile of two companies taking advantage of distillers grains’ malleable attributes. Novita Nutrition and Nutrinsic Corp. have vastly different approaches and products, but each is transforming DDGS into higher-value products, from feed to fertilizer. We’re introduced to a company with similar aspirations in “DG-Based Resins Spring Into Plastics." In this story, by EPM Associate Editor Ann Bailey, we find out how a Nebraska company is producing biomaterials from DDGS for thermoplastics.

Finally, we feature our annual preview of the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo. The 32nd annual FEW will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in June. It’s fitting that our conference preview is surrounded by stories about new technology and innovation because that’s what the FEW is all about. I’m excited about the fact that this year’s FEW will be held in concert with the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo. We just couldn’t resist the synergies of colocation.


Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief
tbryan@bbiinternational.com