Iowa Corn Opportunities invests in Cellencor technology

By Bryan Sims | June 02, 2008
Web exclusive posted June 30, 2008 at 12:09 p.m. CST

Ethanol producers, specifically those that use corn as feedstock, continue to search for technologies and/or equipment that can curb operational costs and, ultimately, improve the bottom line.

With that in mind, Iowa Corn Opportunities LLC, the business development arm of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, applied this principle philosophy when it invested in Cellencor Corp. to further the development and promotion of a new microwave technology for drying distillers grains at ethanol facilities.

Developed by Ames, Iowa-based Cellencor, the microwave drying technology is proven to significantly reduce natural gas usage for drying wet distillers grains when compared to most conventional natural gas-fired rotary drum dryers that are commonly used in ethanol plants today. By installing the microwave drying technology, producers could save 20 percent or more in operating costs, according to Cellencor President Bruce Wiking.

"We're confident microwaves will significantly reduce the dollars per ton required to dry corn compared to traditional natural gas drying methods," Wiking said.

Cellencor and Alliant Energy, Cellencor's utility marketing partner, introduced ICO to its microwave drying technology during a field trial conducted at Heron Lake Bio-Energy's 50 MMgy ethanol plant in Heron Lake, Minn., on May 7.

Cellencor's patented microwave technology differs from that of conventional natural gas-fired rotary dryers because they work from the inside of the product out as opposed to the outside of the product in a fundamental process of microwave technology. Microwave dryers can be installed in new ethanol plants and/or be retrofitted for use in existing facilities.

According to ICO Chief Executive Officer Brian Jones, implementing Cellencor's microwave drying technology would be a boon for Iowa's corn growers looking to get more value out of a product they supply to ethanol plants in the region.

"Our mission is to increase and improve the profitability of corn growers and so we're looking at companies and technologies and new applications that can do that," Jones said. "With so many of our farmers invested in [ethanol] plants and with margins as they are, increasing [production] efficiency is going to be really important in bringing value to the bottom line of these plants and ultimately back to our grower members. That's our reason for making the investment."