Ethanol projects receive Colorado ag grants

By Ryan C. Christiansen | February 04, 2009
The Colorado Agricultural Value Added Development Board, part of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, awarded $200,000 in Advancing Colorado's Renewable Energy grants to organizations for ethanol-related projects.

›Colorado State University's Golden Plains Area Extension Service was awarded a $50,000 grant to evaluate how energy crops should be rotated on northeastern Colorado dryland farms. "What we're trying to do is take the potential renewable energy crops—whether they're biodiesel, ethanol or cellulosic sources—and see how they fit into a cropping sequence," said Alan Helm, area extension agent for CSU. "Which crops follow which best? Which crops don't follow?" He said dryland corn, grain sorghum, forage sorghums and winter wheat will be rotated with canola, camelina, sunflowers and other crops at the Central Great Plains Research Station to determine how well the crops grow in sequence. "Every crop will be planted into every residue," he said. The grant covers the first two years of the project, but additional grants will be sought to extend the project.

›KL Energy Corp. in Rapid City, S.D., was awarded a $25,000 grant to study the feasibility of colocating a 5 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant with Confluence Energy, a wood pellet production facility in Kremmling, Colo., which came on line in April. The facility manufactures pellets from beetle-killed Ponderosa pine. Pending the feasibility study and financing, the ethanol plant would come on line by the spring of 2010, according to Aaron Broten, project manager for KL Energy. He said the ethanol plant will also use beetle-killed timber as a feedstock. KL Energy's cellulosic ethanol production process uses a thermomechanical pretreatment followed by enzymatic hydrolysis to prepare woody biomass for fermentation.

Because the process doesn't use a harsh acid pretreatment, Broten said the result is a clean lignin byproduct, which will be mixed with additional unprocessed beetle-killed timber wood chips for pelletizing. The resulting wood pellets will have 20 percent to 30 percent more British thermal units per pound than wood pellets without the added lignin.

›Feedlot Biofuel LLC in Wichita, Kan., was awarded a $20,180 grant to assess the feasibility of establishing ethanol plants at feedlots in east-central and southeastern Colorado.

According to Bowe Wingerd, manager of Feedlot Biofuel, the company has designed an ethanol plant that is optimized to produce distillers wet grains with solubles that caters to the nutritional needs of cattle. "It's a unique design that produces higher-quality distillers grains while using less energy and capital," he said. Wingerd, who has 18 years of experience in process engineering, said that instead of building a large ethanol plant near corn acreage and then shipping distillers dried grains with soluble elsewhere, Feedlot Biofuel plans to build smaller ethanol plants adjacent to feedlots. He said an ethanol plant located near a typical corn- and sorghum-based feedlot might produce 10 MMgy or 20 MMgy of ethanol.

›The Colorado Corn Growers Association, based in Greeley, Colo., was awarded a $100,000 grant to assist the development of E85 infrastructure in rural Colorado. According to Katrina Davis, spokeswoman for the CCGA, the grant will help three to five retailers pay for installing E85 pumps in 2009.