Internationally-based Delta-T Corp. still highly focused on domestic ethanol production

‘High-tech' engineering firm has 35 molsieves in operation and 10 others currently in construction
By | February 01, 2002
In 1984, a rocket engineer had an idea to replace the problematic azeotropic distillation process for ethanol dehydration with a new generation of molecular sieve adsorption technology. Bibb Swain's molecular sieve systems helped make the ethanol manufacturing process safer, cleaner and more energy efficient - making it more economically feasible to use ethanol as an energy source. These types of molsieves quickly became the new standard for dehydration in alcohol process design. With 35 molsieves in operation and 10 others currently in construction, Delta-T has more alcohol references than all other molsieve designers in the world combined, according to a company spokesperson.

In recent years, Delta-T has been breaking new technological ground in industrial and beverage alcohol markets by utilizing its latest molsieve, distillation and purification technologies to produce high-value, ultrapure ethanol. The company designs plants that produce "ultrapure" and "ultradry" ethanol that contains less than 50 ppm moisture and single digit ppms in other product constituents (industrial-grade alcohol is nearly 100 times purer than typical specifications). Delta-T's recent projects in these high quality alcohol markets include single installations with Equistar Petrochemicals and Kraft Foods, and multiple installations with Grain Processing Corporation (GPC), South Africa Oil Company (SASOL) and The Amylum Group.

Zero-process wastewater
On the heels of its ethanol dehydration success, Delta-T turned its attention to the design of the entire ethanol process. In 1993 Delta-T designed one of the industry's most energy efficient ethanol plants, Corn Plus, in Winnebago, Minn. This was the first ethanol plant ever to incorporate zero process wastewater technology - eliminating the need for wastewater treatment, according to Delta-T.

Since then, Delta-T has claimed other technology firsts in ethanol plant design, including: a fermentation process that can be switched with the push of a button from continuous to batch without loss of capacity; a patented carbon dioxide recovery process that produces an ultrapure product; and a built-in deacidification system that eliminates the need for costly chemicals to pH treat the final product.

Today, with the advent of new thermal oxidizer systems, Delta-T says it designs plants that are among the most environmentally sound ethanol facilities in production.

Its current 36-person staff provides all the engineering, procurement, and construction functions needed to build a new turnkey Delta-T ethanol plant. The company also offers marketing services for both ethanol and distiller's grains products. Its technical services group provides consulting for operations, plant management services, and maintains ongoing maintenance and advanced training agreements with companies such as Equistar Petrochemicals, Kraft Foods, and GPC.
Delta-T VP/Operations, David Adams, recently joining the company from Foster Wheeler, stated, "The pool of talent and industrial experience is strong here. The project managers have significant prior experience with large EPCs and the engineers and technicians have a balanced mix of process and hands-on field expertise. Delta-T has partnered with corporate giants and some of the largest and brightest engineering firms-and provided original solutions for their alcohol projects, and then helped make them come to fruition."

Forging strong relationships
Delta-T's business development group has made strong inroads to help U.S. farmers develop their own projects, raise equity, and obtain financing through partnerships with banking centers and alternative creative ventures. They are also focused on assisting emerging fuel ethanol markets in Mexico, Australia, India, and wherever there's an interest in greener fuels. Larry Johnson, U.S. Business Development Manager, and a former Minnesota farmer, says his main concern is better communicating to corn growers who invest in ethanol plants about the unique advantages that Delta-T can bring to their business.

"In my opinion, many farmer groups lack the technical resources, that the corporate segment has, to calculate and verify real performance and long-term returns," Johnson said. "A permanent association with a technology leader will enable an ownership group to profitably control and operate their own business, while contributing to profit from new Delta-T innovations and improvements as the market matures."

Current projects
In the US, Delta-T is currently working on three fuel ethanol plant projects - two 20 mmgy expansions for Corn Plus and CVEC ethanol plants in Minnesota and a new 15 mmgy plant for ACE Ethanol in Wisconsin. In another transaction not yet announced to the public by the owner, Delta-T just executed an agreement for the design and equipment supply of a large fuel ethanol molsieve dehydration project for an existing ethanol facility.

In development in the U.S.; Delta-T has been selected to provide a 20 mmgy fuel ethanol plant for Algoma Ethanol in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and expects to begin design in February 2002. Delta-T was selected to be the technology provider for a 250 mmgy ethanol plant to be located within the Foxhall Energy Park on the East Coast. This plant will be the largest ethanol facility of any type in the world and is targeted to begin construction in late 2002. Delta-T is currently vying for five other known fuel ethanol plant projects that will be awarded over the next few months.

Internationally; Delta-T is nearing completion of the design of a 120 mmly fuel ethanol plant for Commercial Alcohols, the leading producer in Canada. Construction is expected to begin mid-year. Also, the company is just completing the startup of three molsieve units for industrial alcohol applications in Europe, including the largest installation in the world for one of the largest chemical producers in Europe.

On the international development scene; Delta-T has been selected to design a 66 mmly fuel ethanol plant in Ontario, a 30 mmly plant in northern Mexico, and has been contracted to perform a feasibility study for a sugar cane feedstock ethanol plant in east-central Mexico. The company has also penned an agreement to design the first fuel ethanol plant in Australia-now in the latter stages of project development.

In October 2001, Delta-T signed an agreement with Praj Industries, the leading alcohols technology provider in India, to license Delta-T fuel dehydration technology exclusively in India and parts of Southeast Asia. Luciano Cantafio, Vice President Marketing, stated that Praj has already obtained six contracts providing the molsieve technology in six months.

Rob Swain, Vice President Finance & Business Development, said Delta-T is nearing an agreement with a large EPC organization to partner on design/build ethanol projects both in and outside the US.

"Our alliance will bring more than a billion dollars of bonding capacity to projects, expanding the opportunities to provide turnkey solutions to nearly any size project. We are exploring other alliances related to marketing, equipment and materials supply with companies that share Delta-T's commitment to quality, customer intimacy, and market leadership. We are seeking talented, ethical partners to help us deliver better value to our customers."