Broin Companies, the nation's largest dry mill ethanol producer, announced November 20 its plans to build a cellulose-to-ethanol production facility in Iowa with a completion date expected in 2009. This will be the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S., meaning it will use cornstalks and leaves—not just the kernels—to produce the renewable motor fuel.
The announcement came during a joint press conference at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines with Jeff Broin, CEO of Broin Companies, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, and Iowa Governor-Elect Chet Culver.
"This is an important day for both the Broin Companies and the ethanol industry," said Jeff Broin. "The need to commercialize cellulosic ethanol is apparent as the United States continues to move away from its dependency on oil. We have been working very hard at developing technologies and advancements the past several years to position Broin as a leader in this area and the project in Emmetsburg is a major step toward reaching that goal."
Plant to be converted to use stover
Voyager Ethanol, at Emmetsburg in northern Iowa, will be converted from a 50 million gallon per year (MGPY) conventional corn dry mill facility into a 125 million gallon per year commercial scale biorefinery. It will be designed to use advanced corn fractionation and lignocellulosic conversion technologies to produce ethanol from corn fiber and corn stover as well as corn grain.
Broin, headquartered in South Dakota, has applied for matching grant funds through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to assist with the project.
"Today's announcement represents another significant investment in Iowa's economy," said Gov. Vilsack. "Thanks to our commitment to renewable fuels, we are changing Iowa's economic landscape. This new facility in Emmetsburg is a solid investment in emerging renewable fuels technology. By finding new ways to produce ethanol, we are providing new jobs to Iowans and cementing our position as the leader in renewable energy.
"I congratulate Broin Companies and the people of Emmetsburg for this exciting investment in Iowa's renewable energy future," said Governor-Elect Culver. "This plant represents exactly the kind of advancement in the alternative fuels industry that I will make the focus of our economic development efforts. This facility will mean new jobs and millions of dollars for Iowa's economy. In my administration, as the renewable energy economy continues to grow rapidly, we will continue the progress we have made in attracting firms like the Broin Companies to Iowa to create more opportunities."
Project expansion will cost $200 million
Known as Project LIBERTY, the expansion will use an existing infrastructure with estimated costs for the project at just over $200 million dollars. Pilot research for this project has been conducted and the expansion is slated to begin in February with a commercial production timeline set approximately 30 months later.
Project LIBERTY stands for Launch of an Integrated Biorefinery with Eco-sustainable and Renewable Technologies in Y2009. "This project will create 11% more ethanol from a bushel of corn and 27% more ethanol from an acre of corn while using 83% less energy than what is needed to operate a corn to ethanol plant," said Jeff Broin.
Technology efforts to develop Project LIBERTY began several years ago and escalated when Broin and the DOE jointly funded a five-year research initiative to develop and improve dry mill fractionation with the assistance of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and South Dakota State University. The project provided for the commercialization of Broin's fractionation technology, or "BFrac", which together with Broin's raw starch hydrolysis process (BPX), creates the foundation for biorefining in the future.
The results of BFrac include producing higher ethanol yields, but more importantly it creates additional value-added products and streams – including the intended use of fiber in the production of cellulose to ethanol.
Voyager Ethanol began operations in March of 2005. In addition to producing 125 million gallons per year of ethanol after the expansion, the Voyager facility will create 100,000 tons of Dakota Gold Corn Germ Dehydrated and 120,000 tons of Dakota Gold HP annually as animal feed coproducts.
Background on the Broin Companies
Broin, the largest dry mill ethanol producer in the United States, is an established leader in the biorefining industry through technology development, production capacity, plant management and marketing. The 20-year-old company currently manages 18 plants in the United States while marketing more than one billion gallons of ethanol annually.
Broin has a reputation of fast, successful commercialization of innovative technology that includes recent patent-pending raw starch hydrolysis technology (BPX) and grain fractionation (BFrac). Broin's ability to collaborate with other industry leaders to further research and development has positioned the company as a world leader in several areas, most notably the drive to commercialize cellulose to ethanol production.
Harkin applauds plans for new facility
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, a leading proponent of increasing alternative energy production and use, also applauded Broin Companies and its plan to build a cellulose-to-ethanol production facility in Emmetsburg.
"This is an exciting time for renewable fuels," said Harkin. "The opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg is another step toward true energy security. There's no question that plants like this provide good jobs, economic growth and better farm income for rural America while helping decrease our painful and dangerous addiction to foreign oil. That's why we must continue to aggressively expand our production of biofuels and why I will continue pushing in Washington to keep our renewable fuels industry growing."
On October 31, 2006, Harkin, who is the incoming Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman in support of DOE funding for the Broin Emmetsburg project. In the letter, Harkin explained the new plant holds "great promise for helping our nation wean itself from foreign oil, bolstering the rural economy and improving environmental quality."
Supports aggressive new ethanol legislation
Earlier this year, Harkin introduced aggressive new legislation that will help reduce America's dangerous and costly dependence on foreign oil while giving the country's drivers access to more ethanol and biodiesel at fuel pumps.
Harkin's plan provides a comprehensive approach to boost production and use of ethanol and biodiesel in motor vehicle fuel. His bill calls for a much higher renewable fuels standard (RFS), greater availability of E85 pumps and a requirement that within 10 years nearly every new vehicle sold in the U.S. is capable of using fuel with up to 85% ethanol.
As Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee during the writing of the 2002 federal farm legislation, Harkin established the first-ever renewable energy title in a farm bill, designed to increase farm-based renewable energy such as ethanol, biodiesel and wind power.