ICM advances pathway to cellulosic ethanol

By ICM Inc. | June 17, 2016

With clear application of science and engineering principles, ICM Inc. continues to create advancements in the development and optimization of ethanol technology by creating a stepping stone for future generations of advanced biofuels. Serving as a cost-effective technology in today’s marketplace, ICM’s patent-pending Generation 1.5 Grain Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology (Gen 1.5), integrates a process for converting corn fiber to cellulosic ethanol with existing ethanol plants. This pathway to cellulosic ethanol is accomplished by combining mechanical, chemical, and biological processes with ICM’s extensive experience in integrating advanced technologies into existing corn ethanol plants.

It starts with ICM’s patented technologies, Selective Milling Technology (SMT) and Fiber Separation Technology™ (FST). ICM's SMT selectively grinds corn slurry to make the starch and oil more accessible in the entire process. SMT provides a high financial return to plants by increasing ethanol and corn oil yields. With the further addition of ICM’s proprietary Fiber Separation Technology, the fiber is separated from the stream by counter flow washing steps. FST provides a dual benefit—eliminating the fiber from the fermentation stream allows for higher corn ethanol production and increased corn oil yield. These value-added platform technologies separate a fiber stream at the front end of the plant, which is a starting point of the Gen 1.5 process to cellulosic ethanol.

The Gen 1.5 process sends the fiber stream to a dilute acid pretreatment that breaks down the fiber and makes the cellulose stream accessible for further processing. This pretreatment was selected based on extensive evaluations considering multiple pretreatment technologies and has been optimized based on all process parameters.

Exit pre-treatment, the Gen 1.5 process sends the stream to a simultaneous saccarification and fermentation, whereby the cellulose stream is converted to sugars with a state of the art enzyme cocktail and then the C5 and C6 sugars are converted to cellulosic ethanol with advanced proprietary yeast. Key to ICM’s success has been working closely with partners to optimize the biotechnology steps with the mechanical and chemical steps.

Following fermentation, the Gen 1.5 process sends the stream into the production fermentor of the corn ethanol plant and then to distillation and final separation. ICM has vast experience in providing technologies to more than half the ethanol plants in the U.S. Thus, ICM provides unique technology development capabilities to integrate the energy and material flows while reducing risks.

ICM’s Gen 1.5 process has been proven in both pilot (up to 35,000 gallons) and production (585,000 gallons) fermentors in runs greater than 1000 hours increasing ethanol yield up to 10 percent and increasing corn oil yield up to 20 percent. The cellulosic gallons produced will be eligible to capture D3 RINs, cellulosic tax credits and California Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits, which may result in an added value as high as $3.00 per gallon above corn ethanol prices. This process also produces a high protein DDGS mix. ICM is presently conducting feed trials to demonstrate the added value of this animal feed as compared to standard DDGS. Capex for the Gen 1.5 process is expected to be $3-5 per cellulosic gallon depending on scale and balance of plant requirements.

The ICM Gen 1.5  process does not require additional feed stock collection of agricultural residues and the fiber stream is clean and more consistent allowing easier processing. In comparison to alternative approaches, the process maximizes the output of cellulosic gallons with the lowest risk and Capex investment.

An important aspect of the Gen 1.5 process was developed through collaborations with two world-leading biotechnology companies, DSM and Novozymes. It would not have been possible without the seamless cooperation of these two companies.

Novozymes provides the enzyme cocktail which converts the cellulose stream into accessible sugars. Novozymes’ extensive experience in developing and providing enzymes to both the corn and cellulosic ethanol markets has been crucial to ICM’s development success.

DSM’s development of specific yeasts that ferment both the C5 and C6 sugars in cooperation with ICM’s scientists has allowed ICM to maximize ethanol yields, which are critical to the technical and financial success of this project. DSM is continuously working on advances of yeasts that further increase cellulosic ethanol yield.

Chris Mitchell, president of ICM, said, “This is an important step forward. It brings a sustainable benefit to the entire ethanol industry by maximizing the value of each acre of corn and supplying the market with cellulosic ethanol, at a low cost option and low carbon fuel solution.”

Atul Thakrar, president of DSM Bio-Based Products & Services, stated, “DSM is committed to making all biofuels as efficient and sustainable as possible. Gen 1.5 is a great way for ethanol producers to further improve on sustainability and staying competitive by making everything in the corn kernel useful and productive. Through providing our unique yeast competences to ethanol plants, we underline our  drive to continuously deliver solutions to make the industry more profitable and therefore financially sustainable.”

Peter Halling, vice president at Novozymes said, “This technology allows ethanol producers to extract more value out of the fiber fraction of the corn. It is another example of how continuous new innovation improves profit margins and sustainability by making the industry more and more efficient.”

ICM is currently in discussion with a short list of those interested in being selected as an early adopter of the Gen 1.5 technology. We anticipate construction of the first commercial cellulosic plant of its kind built next to an existing grain ethanol plant in the near future. This will be a major step forward in providing an innovative, capital efficient process solution for production of cellulosic ethanol. The cellulosic answer: ICM Gen 1.5.

The ICM technologies will be on site at ICM’s booth (#1023) at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop, June 20 -23 in Milwaukee, WI. In addition, product literature and opportunities for discussion with product staff will be available.