Iowa could land first large-scale biorefinery
PHILIP BRASHER REGISTER WASHINGTON BUREAU October 5, 2006
Washington, D.C. – Iowa could be the site of one of the first commercial-scale biorefineries in the world to produce fuel ethanol from crop waste.
Broin Cos. disclosed plans Thursday to convert one of its six corn-to-ethanol plants in Iowa into a facility that will use not only corn but also the stalk, leaves and cobs that come with the grain, a company official said Thursday.
The expanded plant, when completed, will produce 125 million gallons of ethanol a year. The site was not disclosed.
Broin, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., is applying for a $80 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department to help pay for the $220 million project, said Mike Muston, Broin’s executive vice president of corporate development.
The country can't produce enough ethanol from corn to replace more than a fraction of 140 billion gallons of gasoline the country now consumes, so scientists have been working on ways to produce alcohol cheaply and efficiently from more plentiful supplies of crop waste, grass and other sources of biomass.
“We believe that taking the stover is a natural next step as we move towards ultimately getting some 30 to 60 billion gallons of ethanol, which we all know is going to have to come from some feedstock other than corn,” said Muston.
The 105 existing corn-to-ethanol plants now in operation nationwide can produce 5 billion gallons of ethanol annually.
Making ethanol from biomass requires breaking down the fibrous material in plants, the cellulose, into sugars that can then be distilled into alcohol.
Broin is licensing technology from chemical giant DuPont to aid with its biomass process.
DuPont is the parent company of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the seed company based in Johnston, Iowa.
Broin manages 18 corn ethanol plants, including the six in Iowa, with an annual capacity of 850 million gallons.