New technology offers both food and fuel
Millions of bushels of corn are being diverted to ethanol. As a result, grain
and food prices are rising. Chris Carl, founder and president of Toronto-based Bio-Extraction Inc. (BioExx), believes
his company has a solution.
According to Carl, the solution
lies in a proprietary oil-extraction process that could hold the key to
maintaining the balance between food and fuel needs.
Conventional oil-extraction methods for grains and other
plants use petroleum-based solvents such as hexane and require high temperatures
(up to 140 degrees) that denature the protein materials, rendering them
unusable. The BioExx process, however, produces both oils and proteins. The
extracted oil - whether from corn, canola or soybeans - can be marketed for
biofuels, while the protein can be sold as fish meal for the booming
fish-farming market or as additives for animal feed.
"Because we use
lower temperatures, we don't 'cook' the proteins like an egg white would be
cooked," Mr. Carl says, meaning that the proteins are thus fit for further use.
In additional to animal feed, extracted proteins can also be used in industrial
applications such as paints and coatings.
BioExx says its process
produces almost no waste or pollutants and consumes less energy than
conventional methods, making it environmentally friendly as well. Even the spent
plant biomass (such as stalks or leaves) can be sold for animal feed or other
products, Mr. Carl says.
already has a small-scale commercial plant in PEI, built with the help of a
$500,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Now it is working
with BioNex Energy Corp. (BEC) of Calgary, which plans to build and operate
plants across Canada that will integrate seed-crushing and biodiesel production
facilities. BioExx is also exploring adapting its process to extract
pharmaceutical and nutraceutical compounds from plants (such as saw palmetto,
used in prostate treatment); and to separate and clean industrial oils. But it's
the biodiesel market that holds the most promise and that's where Mr. Carl
expects the BioExx process will hit pay dirt first.
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Source: The Globe and
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