NREL
 

Energy Department Selects Partners to Bridge Old and New Corn Ethanol Technology Efforts

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Golden, Colo., Feb. 24, 1999 — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced grant recipients in its "Bridge to the Corn Ethanol Industry" initiative which will help connect the established corn ethanol industry and the newer technologies that produce ethanol from agricultural and forest wastes and other types of biomass. Six partnerships totaling $1 million in cost shared contracts were announced.

The six partnerships (list attached) represent one-quarter of the major domestic corn ethanol producers, demonstrating strong industry support for finding alternative feedstocks. Specifically, the department contracts, awarded through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, will help define the technical and economic issues in using corn stover as a primary feedstock along with corn starch in ethanol production. Corn stover is the generic term for the leaves, stalks and cobs left over when the corn plant is harvested for food. Corn ethanol producers would need only expand existing facilities, not build expensive new plants, to accommodate corn stover.

"With more types of feedstocks, especially from the corn industry itself, ethanol producers can keep up with expected increases in demand," said Dan Reicher, DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. "There will be many benefits from a successful initiative including reducing the cost of domestic ethanol production, creating new markets for U.S. corn growers, encouraging the production of a clean-burning alternative to gasoline and helping to cut our dependence on imported oil."

The initiative's broad purpose is to help expand domestic ethanol production by expanding the number of economical feedstocks available to U.S. ethanol refiners. Ethanol is used as a 'clean burning' transportation fuel and industrial chemical. Feedstocks are organic material, such as agricultural wastes or crops grown specifically for energy production. They can be used in the same way as oil: to fuel cars, to make electricity, and as a raw material for the chemical industry.

Ninety percent of domestically produced ethanol—over 1 billion gallons annually—is currently refined from the starch in corn kernels. The fuel is mostly used as an oxygenate and octane booster in gasoline. But the No. 1 market for U.S. corn growers is food, so domestic availability of corn ethanol won't keep up with expected demand unless new, economical feedstocks are developed. Agricultural residues, such as corn stover, are the most likely candidates to help meet that demand. NREL's Alternative Fuels User Facility houses a dozen state-of-the-art laboratories dedicated to evaluating the commercial potential of bioethanol technologies. NREL's ethanol pilot plant is available to industry to test new feedstocks, enzymes and processes.

Building a Bridge to the Corn Ethanol Industry contract awardees are:

  1. Vogelbusch U.S.A., Inc., Houston, Texas, and Chief Ethanol Fuels, Inc., Hastings, Neb. $126, 000.00
  2. Purdue Research Foundation, West Lafayette, Ind., and Williams Energy Services - Ethanol, Pekin, Ill. $174,000.00
  3. Swan Biomass Co., Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., and Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co., Benson, Minn. $155,000.00
  4. Merrick and Co., Aurora, Colo., and High Plains Corp., York, Neb. $193,000.00
  5. The New York State Technology Enterprise Corp., Rome, N.Y. Robbins Corn & Bulk Services, Sackets Harbor, N.Y. $188,000.00
  6. Swan Biomass Co., Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., and High Plains Corp., Portales, N.M. $181,000.00

NR-00899