GALVA, Iowa | The first gallons of cellulosic ethanol were produced in Iowa on Tuesday as a farmer-owned plant in Galva commissioned an $8.5 million distillation unit.
Quad County Corn Processors' new “bolt-on” process adds the capability to convert the kernel’s corn fiber into cellulosic ethanol, in addition to traditional corn starch ethanol. In short, the process invented at the Ida County plant involves converting and processing more from each kernel of corn, Quad County Chief Executive Officer DeLayne Johnson said.
“Through hard work and forward-thinking innovation, we’re excited to be the first cellulosic ethanol producers in Iowa,” Johnson said in a statement. "Our Adding Cellulosic Ethanol (ACE) project will not only increase our plant’s production capacity by 6 percent, but it will also continue to boost energy security and provide consumers with more low-cost, cleaner-burning ethanol without adding any additional corn to the production process.”
The 35 million gallon per year plant will use the corn kernel fiber to produce an additional 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol nationally. The cooperative won't have to increase the amount of corn it buys, however.
The company broke ground in July 2013 on an $8.5 million expansion for this process. It culminated four years of research that saw Quad County employees develop state-of-the-art technology to make it happen.
The process ferments the starch first and then the fiber, rather than a concurrent regimen that ferments both at the same time, Johnson said.
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said cellulosic ethanol producers like Quad County Corn Processors are pioneering new technologies that increase plant productivity and accomplish the goals set forth by the federal Renewable Fuels Standard. Federal lawmakers continue to debate the status of the standard for this year and beyond.
Johnson said the new technology also improves Quad County's distillers grains co-product, which is fed to livestock. The 'ACE' in this ethanol deck boosts corn oil output while also increasing protein content in the feed, turning the old distillers grains into a product more like corn gluten meal.
Quad County Processors started 14 years ago with the investment of some 350 local growers and investors.