SIUE sponsors industry-wide survey for pilot plant

By | May 01, 2002
Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville (SIUE) is constructing the world's first "public domain" ethanol research plant in the school's University Park. The Ethanol Research Pilot Plant will enable researchers to experiment with ethanol production in a 20,000 square-foot building and emulate a full-scale commercial ethanol plant.

The research facility will provide significant benefits to the ethanol industry by testing emerging technologies, exploring the development of new products and expanding the horizons of energy efficiencies.

"The Ethanol Research Pilot Plant at SIUE is truly one-of-a-kind in the U.S. and will bring unique opportunities for research and business development to the region," said SIUE President James Walker. "This research will open new doors to efficient and affordable ways to produce alternative transportation fuels."

The SIUE Pilot Plant will have the capacity to process 200 bushels of corn into 500 gallons of ethanol per day.

The research center is being financed with $14 million in federal aid and $6 million from the state of Illinois.

SIUE retains BBI International to conduct research survey
Plotting a path forward for the research facility is priority number one for SIUE. It is important that the work being conducted at the plant be useful, practical and applicable to ethanol producers and future producers.

To ensure that research performed at the pilot plant will be in step with the ethanol industry, SIUE has, through the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Community Affairs, contracted BBI International to conduct an industry-wide survey. The survey will gather input from ethanol producers, process designers, enzyme producers, academia and others in an effort to build a comprehensive research baseline.

"An effective research program for the pilot plant must be synergistic with the direction the ethanol industry sees as its future," said Kathy Bryan, vice president of BBI International. "The information collected will be directly related to the production and use of ethanol and ethanol co-products."

The work will be done in four stages:

1. Interrogate the ethanol industry and associated private companies about the types of research they believe to be beneficial and appropriate for the facility to conduct.
2. Discuss with the ethanol industry, and associated private and public organizations, existing and future possibilities for new and yet to be fully developed coproduct opportunities, through the bio-refinery concept.
3. Collect information on current research projects being conducted by ethanol producers, private industry, academia, and government agencies.
4. Present a prioritized list of potential research projects.

"This project can provide a catalyst to bring together public and private research projects in a non-threatening environment," Bryan said. "Research can be conducted in a manner that allows full disclosure, if appropriate, or in a way that provides proprietary secrecy should that be required. In short, the Ethanol Pilot Plant will provide a non-biased facility that has no vested interest in capitalizing on the results of the research being conducted."

Bothast Named as Director
Rodney J. Bothast has been named director of the SIUE pilot plant project. Bothast is internationally recognized as an authority on industrial microbiology and biochemical engineering.

He earned a bachelor of science in Animal Science at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and a master of science in Food Microbiology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University at Blacksburg, Virginia. Bothast also received a doctorate in Food Microbiology from Virginia Tech. Bothast's research in the field has been documented in more that 200 scientific publications. He is credited with leading research teams that have made several pioneering discoveries, including the trickle ammonia process of drying grain, the first pentose fermenting yeast, reduced energy cost for the fermentation of alcohol, and methods for solving mold damage problems in the U.S. Food for Peace Program.

"We are confident that Rod Bothast will be breaking new ground in ethanol technology in University Park," said SIUE Chancellor David Werner. "His work and the research done at the facility will have a profound impact on the state of the nation."

Bothast, who has been with the USDA's national Center for Agricultural Utilization Research since 1985, will take over as plant director on August 1.