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Veteran Advisor

Call them Feed Plants, not Ethanol Plants

Interesting article on Bloomberg tells of Green Plains Inc starting to reorganize their business around the idea that they take corn to make feed products, and produce Ethanol as a byproduct, as opposed to the way most ethanol companies operate now.

I had a suspicion this was coming. A couple of summers ago my daughter worked a summer job at one of POET's plants, and she learned that when corn prices are low, they make money on all their products, but even when corn prices are high and they are losing money on ethanol, they still make enough on DDG's and CO2 that they can afford to keep operating.

My son drives a hopper bottom semi and will haul whatever will flow out the trap, but lately his favorite run is to pick up a load of DDG cubes in Iowa, haul it down to a feedlot in north Texas, move some grain around in Oklahoma on his way back, then pick up a load of salt in Hutchinson KS and bring it back to a feed producer in Iowa. He tells me the guys in Texas say that now that corn prices are up, DDG's are no longer cheap high quality feed. It's just high quality feed.

In the near future, the spent effluent from the ethanol distilling process will be sent to another kind of feed plant, where a bacterial process will turn that effluent into a single cell protein source to be used as fish food.

So we keep moving forward in discovering ways to make use of every molecule in a corn kernel. Good stuff.


3 Replies
Veteran Advisor

Re: Call them Feed Plants, not Ethanol Plants

Ddgs are a nice supplement on grass for all cattle. 

Course so are other energy and oil feeds. 

Ground ear corn is best... Not always handy though. 

Senior Advisor

Re: Every gallon of ethanol comes with ...

Every gallon of ethanol produced comes with 6.42 lbs of CO2 easily captured off the top of the fermenters.  Every gallon of raw gasoline burned produces 24 lbs of CO2. At the very least, the petroleum industry should be required to buy some significant percentage of the CO2 generated by burning gasoline from the ethanol industry (or elsewhere) and sequester it as plastic building materials (or similar).  The petroleum industry can sell the building materials and recoup some of their costs. The chemistry isn't that hard and the technology already exists.

  You can even run the CO2 through a solar-powered converter and eliminate the energy cost of the process.  Think of it plastic building materials while you grow corn (from photosynthesis) and produce ethanol fuel at the same time, practically energy free.

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Every gallon of ethanol comes with ...

I agree with your sentiment rick, but be careful of your carbon accounting. If I understand the fermentation process correctly, both the carbon and the oxygen in the CO2 captured off the fermenter comes from the corn plant.  But when you burn gasoline, you combine the carbon and the hydrogen from the gasoline with oxygen that is already in the atmosphere to make CO2 and H2O. Carbon weighs 12 while each oxygen weighs 16, so a gallon of gasoline puts 24 x 12/44 = 6.5 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. 

The plant pulls in CO2 from the atmosphere and releases Oxygen. It gets the oxygen it needs to make carbohydrates from the water it absorbs. (The only difference between hydrocarbons and carbohydrates is the presence of oxygen). For Sucrose:  12CO2 + 11H2O ==> C12H22O11 + 12O2      The 12 O2 molecules released come from the 12 CO2 molecules absorbed.

It makes it a lot easier to keep track of things if you just worry about the carbon movement and ignore the oxygen.