Northwest Iowa ethanol plant celebrates new cellulosic technology

Source: Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal • Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

GALVA, Iowa | Quad County Corn Processors formally broke ground Monday on an $8.5 million expansion that will allow the Northwest Iowa biorefinery to start turning corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol.

Most cellulosic ethanol, a next-generation biofuel, is made from wood, switchgrass or other inedible parts of plants, such as corn cobs and stalks.

After four years of research, Quad County officials developed cutting-edge technology to make 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year with the feedstock — corn.

The process, which ferments the starch first and then the fiber, rather than a concurrent process that ferments both at the same time, is expected to increase the 35-million gallon plant’s annual capacity by about 6 percent, General Manager Delayne Johnson said.

Construction on the new “bolt-on” addition is scheduled for completion in April 2014. Johnson said the investment will create five new full-time jobs, “allow us to produce more ethanol from the same amount of corn, help us contribute to the nation’s supply of cellulosic ethanol, and will continue to lower prices at the pump for consumers.”

A number of politicians and industry officials joined Quad County staff, directors and shareholders for a ground-breaking ceremony Monday afternoon at the site, located just south of the small Ida County town of Galva, along U.S. Highway 20.

“It’s exciting to see one of the smaller ethanol plants in Iowa adding some forward-looking technology,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said in a statement. “This new bolt-on process will greatly improve many efficiencies at this plant, ultimately reducing the amount of energy used to produce a gallon of ethanol.”

Johnson said the new cellulosic process also will boost the plant’s corn oil extraction by about 300 percent, and create a distillers grain product that is higher in protein and lower in fiber. Distillers grain is an ethanol byproduct that is commonly fed to livestock.

With the new process, Johnson said, the distillers grain material will be more similar to corn gluten meal.