News last update:7 Aug 2012

Ethanol co-products more valuable for fuel

When assessing the energy balance, as well as the economics, of ethanol production some producers believe it may be more effective to use the DDGS co-product as a fuel source rather than an animal feed, reports Nicholas Zeman in the October issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine .

Biofuel isn't valuable unless it contains more energy than it takes to produce. Ethanol critics have long accused the renewable fuel of being a net-energy loser.

However, studies show that distillers' grains contribute to the fuel's positive energy balance.

The long-term upward trend in natural gas prices makes many other forms of power competitive. For ethanol producers it may be more efficient to burn distillers' grains than to cultivate a group of buyers.

Ethanol producers don't have to transport the product if they use it as an on-site biomass power source, and some companies already tout equipment that can convert stillage (grains and liquid effluent remaining after distillation) into methane.

NewBio E Systems Inc in Minnesota makes a strong case for ethanol plants to convert thin stillage to methane and use the biogas to power the processing and distillation needs of the facility.

According to NewBio processing thin stillage into distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) consumes energy, while processing thin stillage into methane produces energy.

Energy or feed product?
While the energy markets are making it more appealing to consider distillers grains as a power source, the ethanol co-product is still making its mark in the animal feed market.

If a trend surfaces among refineries to burn distillers' grains, however, there is concern that the ethanol industry could further squeeze the corn market and put more pressure on livestock producers.

Ultimately, economics will be the deciding factor in whether ethanol producers seek the feed or energy market for distillers' grains.

Click here to read the full article in Ethanol Producer magazine.

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