Cargill adds ethanol capacity to Netherlands wheat wet mill

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 18, 2012

Cargill celebrated the official opening in early June of its new starch-based ethanol plant in Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands. The facility can process 600,000 metric tons (20 million bushels) of wheat annually and has an ethanol capacity of 40,000 cubic meters (100 MMgy). 

Since 1978, Cargill has produced starch and glucose from corn and wheat in the plant for use in food, feed and industrial applications. The former corn wet mill never did have ethanol as one of its products. In late 2009, the company began converting the corn facility, closed earlier that year, into a wheat processing facility, adding ethanol production capabilities that came online late last year. 

The wet milling of wheat, much like a corn wet mill, offers a wide range of high value products. The wheat is milled after cleaning to separate the bran from the flour. The flour is processed into a dough that is separated into starch, proteins and a side stream, according to a company spokesman. The proteins, also called vital gluten, are dried and sold as raw material for bakery and feed products. The fibers (bran) are used as a raw material for the cattle feed industry. “The remaining side stream is used for our ethanol production, which consequently produces ethanol, for fuel applications, and wheat yeast concentrate (stillage) used in feed,” the spokesman said. “The starch is mainly used for the production of glucose syrups; a small part is sold as dried wheat starch. Due to the many diverse applications of glucose syrups, we are able to make a wide variety of products that meet customer requirements. We produce around a few hundred different types of starch syrups.”

The ethanol produced from Cargill’s new wheat wet mill gained recognition by Dutch authorities, receiving double credit towards national renewable energy targets. “Our ethanol is produced from a side stream containing starch as raw material,” the spokeman said. “This means that the ethanol produced from this raw material would not take into account impacts from wheat cultivation like conventional, wheat-based ethanol needs to (where the whole wheat grain makes ethanol). For the purposes of the ethanol destined to transport fuels, we adopt the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) GHG calculation methodology outlined in RED Annex V.”

In the official grand opening held June 1, the Netherlands Cargill staff offered tours of the facility to local residents. "We are very proud to celebrate the official opening of the bioethanol plant with our employees, the mayor and other stakeholders,” Alain Dufait, general manager of Cargill starches and sweeteners in the Netherlands, said in a statement following the grand opening. “This factory is a fine example of innovation and entrepreneurship. Thanks to a strong collaboration, both within the company and with external partners, we have succeeded in turning the closure of an old corn factory into a new opportunity."

 "Cargill Bergen op Zoom has succeeded in converting the side streams of our wheat processing into high quality products,” he added. “[It is] an example of how we are constantly trying to optimize our activities, and actively contribute to the biobased economy."