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Leaders in Future and Current Technology Teaming Up to Improve Ethanol Production

For more information contact:
Gary Schmitz, 303-275-4050
email: Gary Schmitz

Golden, Colo., May 30, 2001 - Under a cooperative research and development agreement, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is teaming with Broin and Associates, Inc., a major ethanol producer, to develop new technologies to improve the efficiency of U.S. ethanol production.

The cooperative research and development agreement, known as a CRADA, calls for a one-year, $446,000 effort jointly using Broin and NREL expertise to:

  • Develop improvements in process throughput and water management for dry mill ethanol plants;
  • Evaluate proprietary yeast strains developed by NREL for improving ethanol yields; and,
  • Complete an overall process engineering model of the dry mill technology that identifies new ways to increase efficiencies and improve economics.
Broin is recognized as a leader in the design, construction and operation of "dry mill" plants that currently produce ethanol from corn starch. Dry mills produce about 55% of the 1.8 billion gallons of ethanol currently produced in the United States for use as an octane-boosting oxygenate additive in about 15% of U.S. gasoline.

"The advanced research capabilities and process engineering discipline that NREL can bring to bear should be of tremendous value in identifying additional improvements to the ethanol production process," said Jeff Broin, CEO of Broin and Associates. "We are enthusiastically looking forward to our collaboration with NREL."

The company plans to directly implement economically valuable improvements identified by the cooperative project, Broin said, adding that the cooperative agreement is ideally suited to advancing beneficial new technologies in an industry that lacks the in-house research capabilities of larger, more established energy sectors.

Eric Vaughn, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, the national fuel ethanol trade association, praised the NREL-Broin collaboration as an example of a necessary and mutually beneficial public-private partnership.

"This partnership will improve the efficiency and bottom line of existing ethanol production facilities and the lessons learned can be applied to the cellulosic ethanol plants of the future," Vaughn said. "NREL's commitment to both near-term and long-term technological advances in the ethanol industry is crucial to the growing role domestic, renewable fuels play in U.S. energy policy."

NREL, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratory, is a leader in research to develop new technologies for producing ethanol from fibrous, cellulosic plant material such as corn stalks and husks, which DOE sees as a promising way to meet future needs for transportation fuel with domestic, renewable energy.

"Our primary research focus is on developing technology to expand potential feedstocks for future ethanol production to the huge variety and volume of cellulosic plant materials," said Robert Wooley, DOE Biofuels Program Manager at NREL.

Wooley said the corn grain ethanol industry is already making substantial contributions by providing the United States with domestically produced, renewable, environmentally friendly and beneficial fuel additives. "We expect members of that industry to be the backbone of future cellulosic ethanol production," Wooley said, "and want to work closely with them on an ongoing basis to begin integrating this technology."

NREL is a national laboratory managed by Midwest Research Institute, Battelle and Bechtel. In addition to its work in plant- and waste-derived fuels and chemicals, the lab is a leading center for research into wind and solar power, energy-efficient buildings, advanced vehicle design, geothermal energy and hydrogen fuel cells.

Broin and Associates is a $100 million per year company, headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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