Pacific Ethanol installs upgrades at Madera plant

By Erin Voegele | May 07, 2015

Pacific Ethanol is completing upgrades at its 40 MMgy ethanol plant in Madera, California. The company recently announced corn oil production at the plant has commenced. In addition, an-industrial scale membrane system is scheduled to be installed at the facility later this year.

On May 7, Pacific Ethanol announced commercial production of corn oil has begun at the Madera plant utilizing Valicor’s proprietary VFRAC corn oil recovery system.

“We are pleased to be producing corn oil at our Madera plant, which further diversifies our plant revenue streams and significantly improves operating income,” said Neil Koehler, president and CEO of Pacific Ethanol. “In addition, plans are underway for corn oil production to begin at our Boardman, Oregon, plant in the second quarter, at which time all four of Pacific Ethanol's ethanol production facilities will be producing and benefitting from this high-value coproduct."

The Madera plant is also expected to install an industrial-scale membrane system designed to reduce the consumption of water, energy and emissions while increasing product output.

On May 6, Whitefox announced it has signed an agreement with Pacific Ethanol to deliver the membrane system to the Madera plant. According to the agreement, Whitefox will deliver a stand-alone, container-based, membrane system to the facility. The system is scheduled to be delivered this month, with commissioning and startup scheduled for June.

Information released by Whitefox indicates the membrane unit will be used to assess the impact of treating certain side streams in the ethanol production process and optimize the design of a membrane solution to remove bottlenecks and improve ethanol production efficiency.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to work with Pacific Ethanol,” said Gillian Harrison, CEO of Whitefox. “When I met CEO Neil Koehler last November, I was impressed by the company's efforts to lead the way in the production of low-carbon renewable fuels. It is clear that Pacific Ethanol is investing in energy and water consumption reduction initiatives because it makes environmental sense, but also because it makes good business sense as it improves plant efficiencies. We are confident that Whitefox's membrane solution will contribute to Pacific Ethanol's ambitious targets and look forward to working together."

"Existing ethanol producers are dealing with a number of issues in the ethanol production process: One challenge is cooling water during hot and humid summer months when output capacity is sometimes reduced to maintain product specifications,” said Stephan Blum, chief technology officer of Whitefox. “Another challenge is the constant recycle of water-rich ethanol that consumes additional energy and prevents plants from operating at their full capacity potential. These challenges can be addressed with a membrane solution that give producers a more reliable and efficient operation.”