Iowa Secretary of Agriculture checks out a new kind of ethanol plant

Source: By Stephanie Ross, Multimedia Journalist, KTIV • Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2013

GALVA, Iowa (KTIV) –

Siouxland is home to several ethanol plants, but soon there will be one like no other. And Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, checked out the progress on Friday.

“This is potentially very, very significant for the ethanol industry, actually in the country – certainly for Iowa, as Iowa’s the biggest state for ethanol production,” Northey said.

Northey was talking about cellulosic ethanol. Even though it has a different name, it’s the same product you’ve been getting out of your local gas pump, but it’s made with a different feed stock.

That includes wood, grass, or the inedible part of plants. When it’s built, the Quad County Corn Processors will use corn fiber or cellulose to make ethanol.

Northey learned more about the process during his tour and said the idea is revolutionary.

“This is the first one that’s using that corn fiber that’s already coming in to the ethanol plant that’s attached to the corn that is now being processed for the starch,” Northey said.

Travis Brotherson is the plant engineer. He took part in discovering this kind of ethanol about five years ago.

“We found that we could break down cellulose in to a form that we could ferment into ethanol,” Brotherson said.

Even though ethanol will be made with cellulose, the final product won’t change.

“The difference between the ethanol we will be producing from cellulose and the ethanol we produce from starch will be zero,” Brotherson said.

Although there will be no noticeable difference for the consumer, Northey said there are many benefits to using the cellulosic ethanol.

“It could be something that’s not horribly expensive to add to plants that could allow additional ethanol from the same bushels of corn, and a better feed product, and more corn oil that could get used in biodiesel,” Northey said.

Quad County Corn Processors invested $8.5 million in to building this cellulosic ethanol plant.

“We’re pleased to be part of the solution to have one to two billion gallons of domestically produced fuel that’s replacing oil that’s being imported from the mideast,” Quad County Corn Processor General Manager Delayne Johnson said.

Employees hope this kind of ethanol picks up popularity across the country. They plan to have their project complete by April 2014.