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Ethanol Producer VeraSun Announces Biodiesel Co-Production

3 November 2006

VeraSun Energy Corporation, the US’ second-largest ethanol producer, plans to produce biodiesel from oil extracted from distillers dried grains (DDG), a co-product of the ethanol production process.

VeraSun has been exploring biodiesel for years. In 2005, VeraSun and other ethanol producers (Glacial Lakes Energy, KAAPA Ethanol and Golden Grain Energy) and a technology company (Ethanol Oil Recovery Systems—EORS) formed SunSource BioEnergy, LLC with the intention of developing technology that enables the extraction of corn oil from the dry mill process. (Earlier post.)

VeraSun would become the first company to develop a large-scale (30 million gallons per year), commercial facility for biodiesel production from a co-product of the ethanol production process, creating two biofuels from the same feedstock.

Smaller DDG-to-biodiesel projects are underway, such as those by GS CleanTech (earlier post). GS CleanTech is an operating company of GreenShift Corporation, which owns part of EORS.

This opportunity is a natural extension to our business and consistent with our objective to be a leader in the production of renewable fuels. This technology is particularly strategic to VeraSun because it allows us to extend our large and low-cost producer strategy from ethanol to include biodiesel.

—Don Endres, Chairman and CEO of VeraSun

VeraSun is currently evaluating locations for a 30-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel production facility, with plans to commence construction in 2007 and begin production in 2008. The Company has contracted with Lurgi PSI, Inc. for design and engineering services for the biodiesel facility and with Crown Iron Works Company for oil extraction equipment.

As a result of the exclusivity provisions in these contracts, VeraSun expects to be the first to develop large-scale facilities using this technology. The Company has also filed a provisional patent application with the US Patent Office for the production process.

VeraSun has two operating production facilities located in Aurora, South Dakota, and Fort Dodge, Iowa, is constructing a third facility in Charles City, Iowa, and has two additional facilities under development in Welcome, Minnesota, and Hartley, Iowa. Upon completion of the new facilities, VeraSun will have an annual production capacity of approximately 560 million gallons of ethanol per year.

November 3, 2006 in Biodiesel, Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

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While I always like to see uses of what would otherwise be a waste product, I see two rather big drawbacks here:
1) Corn is not environmentally friendly and we do not have a way to grow significantly more corn than now. This process may encourage corn growing (vs. other crops or letting fields lie fallow) but that probably is not an environmental plus in the big picture.
2) This takes a byproduct of ethanol production that might otherwise be useful as animal feed or perhaps fertilizer and instead extracts oil, resulting in a further waste product of even less value. Since the US is not rapidly turning in a Vegan nation, this seems to mean that fuel is competing with food in yet another context. And that would seem to mean that the poor - whether domestic or global - will lose out.


"The poor" - Checked the price of beef lately?

"with the intention of developing technology that enables the extraction of corn oil from the dry mill process. (Earlier post.)"

This extracts oil from the distillers dry grain. So the animals get low carb, low fat and high protein feed. The cattle ranchers and dairy farmers can decide if this makes sense for their purposes and the motorists can decide if this is something they want. Corn and soy may not be the best way to get biofuels, but as long as we grow lots of those crops, let's get the most out of them.

Methanol is the alcohol usually used in biodiesel production, although ethanol can be used instead. Anybody know the relative pricing?

This is a good move in demonstrating large scale multiple products from a single feeedstock. Petro has long exploited this and for biofuel producers it is necessary to remain competitive.

As for food vs fuel - currently big ag still receives significant subsidies to withhold corn and other food crops. The bio-market encourages farmers to grow more crops for use as food or fuel.

Looks like I need to write more carefully...

Lucas - I'm not suggesting that the poor are going to have fewer steaks to eat. I'm suggesting that they will have more trouble affording corn and corn products, since I suspect demand for beef will continue and will drive up corn prices (whether for human or animal consumption). Of course, given how much US production goes into corn syrup, maybe I should stop worrying/caring...

SJC - I'm not a farmer but I do know that many farm animals actually have vegetable oil added to their diet, in particular dairy cows. I would imagine that the reduced-oil end product is less useful as cattle feed. I do not know whether this matters for other farm animals.

http://www.cbot.com/cbot/docs/67151.pdf
Silage grade/residuals are pretty high, and so is its consumption. Most of the ethanol comes from non-irrigated, human grade corn. It is the same type that is also used for the cheap sweetener corn syrup, and corn oil. The resulting pulp (or DDG in the case of ethanol) is then used for animal feed, as various protein/starch products.

Last time I looked methanol was about $1 per gallon and ethanol was about $2 per gallon.
These guys are not going to do this if there is no market for their end products.
DDG with the fats removed needs customers to make this economically viable.
Hence, they either have customers or they do not.

I got 4 energy crops, one may be controversial, all have ups and downs:
1) Fodder beets (may be hybridized with sugar beets).
2) Sweet Sorghum.
3) Sugar Cane (and its less sugary cousin "Energy Cane").
4) Tobacco.

Allen:

There is another one, even more controversial: hemp (one of its variety is more widely known as marihuana):

http://www.hemp4fuel.com/link.html

Nicotine is a neurotoxin, and an acre of tobacco can have enough to kill thousands. Plant enough to fuel the nation, and it could problematic w/all tht poison around. In light of this, nicotine free (or at least low-ultra low nicotine) variants should be developed/used.
___Here is a PDF about various plants that could be used for soil recovery, or biomass.

http://plants.usda.gov/pmpubs/pdf/hipmcra2000.pdf
Crotalaria juncea (sunn hemp)
http://www.ag.auburn.edu/aux/nsdl/sctcsa/sctcsa_2002/docs/proceedings/Marshall.pdf
http://www.aces.edu/precisionag/commodity_reports/2005/wheat/14_report.pdf

"Nicotine is a neurotoxin, and an acre of tobacco can have enough to kill thousands."
What's all this? We've been growing millions of tons of tobacco for 300 years.

The only suitable solution is electric vehicles. You can then all fight about what should be used to produce the electricity. Altair has developed the first practical electric battery, one that lasts a very long time (25+ years) and can be recharged in a few minutes. I note that GM's director of their fuel cell program recently remarked
that there were no batteries around that can be recharged fast enough to make an electric car practical (the Altair
batteries can be fully recharged in 8 to 12 minutes). Is that fast enough for you?

This is feature of fuel cells that is a lot like ICE. You stop at a fueling station and put fuel in the tank and get back on the road. You do not have to hook up jumper cables from Hoover Dam to recharge your car in 10 minutes for another 200 miles of travel.

This whole push to supplement and eventually replace fossil fuel in the form of gasoline and diesel with ethanol from crops has a serious flaw; the world does not have the fresh water to shift to this use. In major cities across the world there is a growing concern over subsidence, sinking, of the land beneath their feet. The tallest, and heaviest, buildings in some cities are beginning to tilt dangerously, with no solution in sight. It is the pressure of water in aquifers beneath the land that keeps the land afloat, so to speak. Most major cites worldwide are built upon large aquifers. Like oil deposits, these aquifers took many millions of years to accumulate their enormous quantities of water. If we stopped tapping them entirely they wouldn't recover naturally within the lifetimes of our great-great-great grandchildren, and the levels in aquifers around the world are dropping much too fast to be countered by human effort. The additional drain of huge quantities of water to the production of biofuels will speed the depletion of the aquifers. Fresh water accounts for less than one percent (1%) of the water which covers planet Earth. Portions of the lower Colorado River are now as salty as seawater because of saltwater incursion, the flow of seawater into the aquifers (whose liquid levels are now below sea level).
We simply don't have the water resources to devote to an agricultural solution to our energy needs. We must look elsewhere, because this solution is only a stopgap measure. What is needed is a paradigm shift. Anything less won't get us out of this mess, only get us into another. If we try to use nuclear power, we run into the impossible problem of waste management, and the hidden problem of the enrichment process producing more than enough carbon in the atmosphere to make the nuclear power over its real lifecycle worse, in carbon output, than fossil fuel power plants despite the lack of carbon emissions from a nuclear power plant. Then there's the potential nightmare of disposing "safely" of nuclear waste; it can't be done. What's needed is a fundamental change in how we live and do business in the world today, and in the future. We're going to have to lead the way in this, because all over the world our standard and way of living are the goal to which emerging technological societies aspire (China, for one, and they make up the majority of humanity). If America, the world's most extravagant and wasteful consumer, won't make the needed changes, it's pointless to ask others to do so. It's going to take cleverness, focus and courage, but if it's not done there won't be a tomorrow worth living for our descendants. "Business as usual" has brought us to the brink of environmental suicide, facing crises on numerous fronts fundamental to life and living on this planet.
Below I include a few references on the dangerous drop in aquifer levels around the world.

1. (second article: DANGERS wtih this type of HELP...) http://africanamerica.org/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/67970854/m/2271085604
2. This one includes maps of affected areas in the United States; http://www.nap.edu/books/POD309/html/24.html
3. This one also details the effects of pumping petroleum out of the earth and its contribution to subsidence; http://www.geology.ucdavis.edu/~cowen/~GEL115/115CHXXsubsidence.html
4. http://geosurvey.state.co.us/Default.aspx?tabid=175

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