Highwater moves forward with corn oil technology installation

By Holly Jessen | October 08, 2013

The proprietary corn oil separation system currently being installed at Highwater Ethanol LLC is expected to be completed this winter, with corn oil production expected in the first quarter of 2014, according to Brian Kletscher, CEO of the nearly 60 MMgy plant located in Lamberton, Minn.

The novel technology is licensed through an agreement with Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC. Highwater has agreed to the project as Phase I of its investigation into the biobutanol technology of Butamax and will enter negotiations on a possible agreement for Phase II once the corn oil separation technology is installed and in operation, Kletscher told Ethanol Producer Magazine. “Based on demonstration of the Butamax system conducted at Highwater, we expect the (corn oil) yield to be class leading,” he added.

In December 2011, Highwater was the first ethanol plant to sign on as part of Butamax’s early adopters’ group, or facilities investigating the possibility of retrofitting their corn-ethanol plants for biobutanol production. Also on the list are four Big River Resources facilities in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, Corn LP of Goldfield, Iowa, Granite Falls Energy LLC of Granite Falls, Minn., Lincolnway Energy LLC of Nevada, Iowa, Little Sioux Corn Processors LP of Marcus, Iowa, and Siouxland Ethanol LLC of Jackson, Neb. One ethanol plant, Platinum Ethanol LLC of Arthur, Iowa, has dropped off the list of Butamax early adopters, according to Butamax spokesperson.

Although nearly two years have passed since Highwater became an early adopter, the company is content with how things have been progressing. “I have always said that the commercialization if phased in or all at one time needs to be reviewed and pilot tested to ensure that it can be scaled up and be successful,” Kletscher said. “Butamax’s approach of thorough validation of technology prior to installation at commercial facilities is fully aligned with Highwater’s philosophy on new technology introduction.”

Highwater has been impressed with everything it has seen from Butamax so far. The ethanol plant signed on to work with Butamax on the possibility of biobutanol production because it is a joint venture of BP and DuPont, two huge and experienced companies. “We’re excited about the opportunity that butanol offers but we will ensure that it will fit well with Highwater Ethanol’s vision on future production,” he said.

Butamax has an agreement with Fagen Inc. to do the engineering, procurement and construction work for this project. That gives Kletscher another layer of confidence because the company has the experience needed to get everything installed and operating on time, he said.