According to Miloud Araba, head of Enogen technical services at Syngenta, cellulosic innovation could enable dry grind ethanol producers to capitalize on steadily increasing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements for cellulosic biofuels, which are up 35 percent for 2017.
Araba discussed opportunities for cellulosic ethanol at the 2017 National Ethanol Conference.
“Approximately 10 percent of the corn kernel dry weight is fiber, and converting corn kernel fiber feedstock to cellulosic ethanol has been possible for some time,” Araba said. “However, recent advances in technologies can enable commercial deployment today. In fact, the approximately 12 million tons of corn kernel fiber feedstock already available at U.S. dry grind ethanol plants each year could produce a potential 1.5 billion gallons of additional, cellulosic ethanol.”
Araba added that the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) offers further opportunities for corn kernel fiber. “Low carbon intensity fuel that puts out fewer emissions will be increasingly needed in California to meet the goals of the LCFS program and the demand for LCFS credits,” he said. “Looking ahead, cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber will be in demand because long-term objectives of the LCFS cannot be met with D6 ethanol at 10 percent.”
In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added corn kernel fiber to the list of qualifying cellulosic biofuel feedstocks as part of the RFS. That same year, using Cellerate process technology, Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) was the first commercial cellulosic facility – using corn kernel fiber as feedstock – and achieved EPA certification to generate D3 RINs. To date, QCCP has produced more than 5.5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
“In addition to improvements in throughput and yield, Cellerate enhanced by Enogen corn enzyme technology drives corn oil yield, leads to increased protein levels, and lower residual starch content in co-products,” Araba said. “Protein increases were observed immediately after Cellerate was integrated at QCCP in July of 2014. Initial feed formulation evaluations have shown that Cellerate can lead to an increase in the value of feed co-products, as well as potential access to higher value feed markets.”
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