Thursday, October 11, 2007

Distillers Grain to Biogas

The above is the unit capable of gasifying distiller grains into a biogas. Notice the scale with the man ot the right between the unit and the tote.

New ideas about ethanol and distillers grain. Check it out at

The long time policy criticism of ethanol is the energy use required to make the end product. This primarily being the cost of energy to both distill the alcohol and dry the distillers grain into a commercial product.

Today (as opposed to the early 1980's) ethanol is typically net energy positive. This being more so if the distillers grains are shipped to feed markets fresh and wet (requiring no energy after use for fermenting). Even more so if the economies of scale enable full train loads or barge usage for the plants primary production.

As Ethanol Producer Magazine reports there is talk of using the distillers grain for energy onsite at the ethanol plant.

My thoughts. Real successful businesses and industries require a reciprocal relationship of support. Their success providing a rising tide for ancillary industries. The burning of distillers grain might make good ivory tower 'net-energy-balance' math but from an economic development perspective it probably sets ethanol back.

Ranchers, feed lots, and other agricultural interests are already complaining about corn prices. No reason to extend that cost inflation across the higher end substitutes as well. Also, eventually a price inversion is going to set in on the ethanol market just as sure as a shortage of ethanol existed after the phase out of MTBE.

When the market changes ethanol plants are going to need industrial and political friends. Backside products build such coalitions. No biofuel plant should attempt to be an island as neat as it looks on a laboratory black board or industry white paper. We should want other industries counting on our success in our communities.

No comments: