GreenShift awarded patents, files lawsuit

By Craig A. Johnson | December 09, 2009
GreenShift Corp. recently announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued two patents to its wholly owned subsidiary, GS CleanTech Corp., for advanced processing methods for corn oil extraction. GreenShift estimates the ethanol industry currently produces more than 20 million barrels of corn oil per year. The oil can be used as a feedstock for biodiesel and renewable diesel, among other applications.

The ‘858 patent, Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems, awarded Oct. 14, is for GreenShift's proprietary approach to the extraction of corn oil. The ‘729 patent, Method of Freeing the Bound Oil Present in Whole Stillage and Thin Stillage, announced Oct. 27, details GreenShift's process for extracting the corn oil before the grains are dried.

David Winsness, GreenShift's chief technology officer and co-inventor of the company's extraction technologies, describes the process as unique in the industry. "There are no other technologies that have been developed for corn ethanol producers that begin to approach even a fraction of these results in the entire history of the ethanol industry," he said. "The ‘858 patent covers the core of our extraction platform. The ‘729 patent builds off the ‘858 patent to enhance yield and optimize energy utilization."

Ethanol plants capturing corn oil can realize an added benefit from selling the oil. In addition, an efficiency improvement is created by removing the oil, which acts as an insulator during the drying process. GreenShift estimates an ethanol plant's savings at roughly 13 cents per gallon of ethanol.

According to GreenShift, the company's patented and patent-pending extraction technologies can increase biofuel yields per bushel of corn by 7 percent, while reducing the energy consumption and greenhouse gas intensity of corn ethanol production by an estimated 21 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Immediately after it received the patents, GS CleanTech filed legal action in the U.S. District Court (Southern District of New York) against GEA Westfalia Separator Inc. and others in the industry for infringing on GreenShift's U.S. patent covering corn oil extraction technology.

"The economic and environmental benefits to the ethanol industry made possible by our portfolio of patented and patent-pending extraction technologies are remarkable," said Kevin Kreisler, GreenShift's chairman and CEO. GreenShift contends that seven years after it started offering its corn oil extraction equipment to the ethanol industry and well after its patent applications were published, Westfalia trivialized those innovations as it solicited and influenced customers in the ethanol industry to use Greenshift's now-patented technology. GreenShift's team demonstrated the feasibility of its corn oil extraction technology for the first time in 2004, according to the company.