Hatching Higher Protein

FROM THE MAY ISSUE: Technologies for feed coproducts are evolving, pumping out high-protein ingredient alternatives. Experts assure the market is ripe.
By Susanne Retka Schill | April 24, 2018

The pile of distillers grains at nearly a dozen plants is about to get smaller. Production of Fluid Quip Process Technologies LLC’s high-protein feed ingredient is expected to double this fall. The new feeds from ICM Inc.’s Fiber Separation Technology are being rolled out by first adopters after being introduced at last year’s International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo. And the final engineering package for Harvesting Technology LLC’s CoProMax commercial system is due out this spring.

Each is taking a slightly different approach to producing high-protein feed, although all are taking what once was one pile of distillers grains and creating two piles—one of the new high-protein ingredient, the other of what’s left, with characteristics that will vary by process. Other benefits include increased corn oil yields and a boost to throughput, partly because of cleaner backset.

Protein Potential
The first question often asked is just how much of a market will there be for these new high-protein coproducts? The concern is the market will be quickly oversupplied once the first plants are up and running, and the promised premium price will disappear. Neal Jakel, vice president of strategy and technology for FQPT, hears that a lot, but he cites reports that the global protein industry is 3 million metric tons short annually. “And that continues to grow,” he says. “Even if we converted every ethanol plant in the U.S., we wouldn’t have enough of this protein to fill demand.” He says potential customers have expressed interest, but only when there’s multiple plants producing sufficient supplies of the same product.

Developing a new feed product is a lengthy and expensive process, Jakel says. If the feed doesn’t have an official ingredient definition—which he says the new high-protein coproduct has under the existing grain distillers dried yeast definition—there’s a minimum 18-month process to get approval. Then, there needs to be sufficient supplies of commercially produced product for feeding studies on the targeted species. To date, the protein product from FQPT’s Maximized Stillage Coproduct process has been used in more than 20 feeding studies in species including shrimp, tilapia, trout, salmon, dogs, cats, dairy cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys.

One important finding from those tests, Jakel says, is “the animal trials with product from the two U.S. plants making it today had the exact same results. So we know the technology is repeatable.” The first MSC commercial-scale system was installed at Badger State Ethanol in Monroe, Wisconsin, in 2009, the second in Brazil in 2016, followed by United Wisconsin Grain Producers in the same year. Having substantial supplies from the first two U.S. plants was a plus for the third U.S. adopter, Flint Hills Resources Fairmont, where the system is currently under construction.

Not only was Flint Hills able to run initial feed tests for evaluation before investing in the process, the company has run multiple studies on several target species and launched the product under the trademarked NexPro brand. “We’re looking at a product that is likely somewhere between soybean meal and corn gluten meal in terms of value, with a much higher nutrient content than your traditional ethanol feed coproducts,” says Scott Tilton, Flint Hills manager of nutrition services. Besides poultry, swine and dairy, the company is looking at aquaculture and has begun seeking import registrations in several countries of interest.

FQPT’s MSC is a back-end process that moves about a quarter of the distillers grains pile into the high-protein channel, Jakel explains. Targeting the specialty protein market means added capital costs for the ring dryer needed to preserve protein quality and dedicated storage. The remaining distillers grains are not seeing discounts, Jakel adds. “We still make an export-grade DDGS product. The DDG pricing hasn’t changed post-MSC for the plants that have installed it.”

FST Feeds
ICM’s new feed product begins with its front-end Fiber Separation Technology that washes out fiber before fermentation, boosting throughput about 10 percent. After fermentation, the remaining nonfermentable solids become enriched distillers grains, says Ryan Mass, ICM feed business manager. “Our minimum specification for FST Next Gen HiPro is 38 percent crude protein, as is. With that, we have concentrated digestible amino acids, resulting in more lysine, methionine and threonine in HiPro. Enriching for those things is part of capturing the linear value of the protein.” The higher protein and improved digestible amino acid profile is targeted at monogastric animals such as pigs, chickens and aquaculture, where high fiber levels have limited DDGS feeding.

The trademarked FST Next Gen fiber ultimately can become feedstock for cellulosic ethanol technology, which will be first demonstrated at commercial scale at The Andersons and ICM’s plant, Element LLC.  Construction of the 70 MMgy corn ethanol plant started this spring next to company headquarters in Colwich, Kansas. Element will demonstrate multiple ICM technologies, including its Gen 1.5 corn fiber-to-cellulosic ethanol technology.   

In the meantime, the seven plants that have installed FST are beginning to market the fiber-plus-syrup feed product introduced by ICM at last summer’s FEW, along with the FST HiPro Next Gen. Those plants are IGPC Ethanol in Aylmer, Ontario; Redfield Energy in Redfield, South Dakota; ICM Biofuels in St. Joseph, Missouri; E Energy Adams in Adams, Nebraska; Kansas Ethanol in Lyons, Kansas; Corn Plus in Winnebago, Minnesota; and FS Bioenergia in Brazil. An eighth, using the improved FST Next Gen design, will come online this summer at Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy in Phillipsburg, Kansas.

Initial reports are promising, Mass says. A University of Guelph, Ontario, feed trial on finishing swine compared conventional DDGS with the HiPro feed, finding an average digestibility increase of 45 percent more essential amino acids and 24 percent more energy. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln trial compared the fiber-plus-syrup to conventional DDGS and wet cake in finishing beef cattle, Mass adds, with the new feed returning the greatest average daily gain. The energetic efficiency was calculated to be 126 percent that of corn.   

ICM rolled out another new technology at last year’s FEW, trademarked TS4—for thin stillage solid separation. Like FST Next Gen, TS4 has two feed streams. The separated solids are a high value yeast-based feed product, Mass explains, while the liquids can be concentrated to become a molasses substitute. He will share the latest data on the new feed products at the upcoming FEW, June 11 to 13 in Omaha, Nebraska. Further down the road, the TS4 liquids could become a substrate for promising new microbials. Mass reports several companies are developing microbes for specialty feeds and dozens of companies are exploring biological seed treatments. The Andersons is the first adopter of TS4 at one of its four plants.

Harvesting Technology is taking a third approach to producing differentiated coproducts. Its CoProMax process separates proteins and fats from whole stillage after fermentation. A patented low-energy physical separation process eliminates the need for decanters, explains company co-founder George Bolton. “The liquids recovered from that separation are treated with a polymer and go into a DAF—a dissolved air flotation system—that aggregates the fats and proteins.” The material is heated and run through a tricanter to separate the protein and oil. “The solids produced are both yeast cells and small particles from the whole stillage, where most of the proteins are concentrated.”

About a third of the original distillers grains pile is separated as high-protein meal, Bolton says, with protein percentages in the high 40s. “The feed companies that have looked at it are excited because the nutritional profile fits poultry,” he says. “It’s equivalent in protein to soymeal with about twice the digestible energy.” The balance, called CK Fiber, contains up to 80 percent corn kernel fiber, which, with high levels of nondetergent fiber and low oil, will make a good cattle or dairy feed, Bolton says, or be used as a cellulosic ethanol feedstock.

Final engineering designs for the skid-mounted, modular CoProMax system are being completed based on the data gathered last summer during a commercial-scale demonstration run at Adkins Energy in Lena, Illinois. Payback is estimated to be less than a year, he says, adding that he expects the first commercial installation to be underway later this year.

FQPT, ICM and Harvest Technology seem to be leading the way into the enhanced feed ingredient market. The following graphic, on pages 32 and 33, details the key factors of each of their products and technologies.


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The Breakdown

Fluid Quip Process Technologies LLC
Maximized Stillage Coproduct 
• Back-end whole stillage separation.
• Creates two coproduct streams: high protein with yeast and corn protein
   (corn gluten meal), and standard distillers grains.
• Investment includes separation technology, ring dryer and dedicated storage.
• Increases corn oil yields and increases throughput by about 10 percent.
• ROI less than two years.

Still Pro 50 (trademarked NexPro by Flint Hills Resources)
• Contains 50 percent crude protein comprised of 25 percent yeast.
• Yield is about 25 percent of total coproduct stream, partly dependent on incoming
   corn protein.
• Lysine content double that of corn gluten meal, and methionine substantially higher
   than in soymeal.
• Remaining distillers grains maintains export specifications with 28 percent protein,
   7 percent fat.

Harvesting Technology LLC
CoProMax System 
• Back-end, skid-mounted whole stillage separation.
• Boosts throughput by 5 to 8 percent, up to 50 percent increased corn oil yield.
• Improves carbon-intensity score through 15 to 25 percent reduction in natural gas
   and 20 to 30 percent reduction in grid electricity use.
• Estimated ROI one year.

• Protein level in high 40th percentile.
• Yield is one-third CoProMax protein, two-thirds CK Fiber product and corn kernel fiber.
• Yield is 7.6 pounds of 90 percent dry matter per bushel of corn.

ICM Inc.
FST Next Gen
• Front-end fiber separation.
• Boosts throughput up to 10 percent.
• Increases corn oil extraction up to 15 percent.
• Creates two coproduct streams: fiber and remaining solids with concentrated protein.
• ROI two to three years.

• Launched at FEW 2017.
• High-value feed products to be formally launched at FEW 2018.
• Back-end thin stillage separation.
• Yeast solids contain 48 percent crude protein.
• Liquids condensed and usable as molasses substitute or specialty fermentation substrate.
• Yields vary depending on plant goals.
• ROI two to three years.

FST Next Gen HiPro
• Contains minimum 38 percent crude protein.
• Concentrated amino acids, higher in lysine, methionine and threonine than
   conventional distillers.
• Swine feed trial indicates 45 percent increase in digestible amino acids and 24 percent  
   more energy than standard DDGS.
• Yield is 40 percent of coproduct stream.

FST Fiber plus syrup
• Targeted at ruminants where feed trials show 25 percent more energy than standard
   distillers (dried and wet) and improved daily gain and feed efficiency.
• Yield is 60 percent of coproduct stream.

Author: Susanne Retka Schill
Freelance Journalist