White Dog Labs buys Minnesota biorefinery

By Erin Voegele | February 05, 2020

White Dog Labs has announced plans to purchase a biofuel plant in Minnesota that originally produced ethanol, but was later converted to produce biobased butanol and acetone. WDL plans to upgrade the plant to produce ProTyton, an aquaculture feed product.

WDL issued a statement on Feb. 4 announcing that the district court for Morrison County, Minnesota, has approved its bid to acquire the Central Minnesota Renewables plant in Little Falls, Minnesota. The facility was initially developed as the 21 MMgy Central MN Ethanol Co-op corn ethanol plant. Green Biologics Inc., a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of U.K.-based biotechnology and renewable chemical company Green Biologics Ltd., purchased the facility in December 2014 through its Central MN Renewables LLC affiliate. The facility was retrofitted to produce biobased butanol and acetone and resumed operations in 2016. In mid-2019, Green Biologics announced it could not secure funding to continue operations and would close the plant.  

In its Feb. 4 statement, WDL said the Little Falls facility has several unique production capabilities required to produce ProTyton. "We are happy to announce this agreement and will work with local and state authorities to reopen the plant as quickly as possible,” said Bryan Tracy, CEO of WDL.

The statement references a recently announced offtake agreement with Cargill for ProTyton, an alternative protein to fishmeal used in aquaculture. ProTyton, made up of 80 percent protein, is sustainable and scalable as it is made from corn, but is also affordable as it shares production costs with its co-product, MiruTyton, said the company. MiruTyton, a butyrate-rich fermentation-soluble, has been shown to substantially reduce prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in challenged broilers, in addition to improving Feed Conversion Ratio and weight gain. WDL said it is currently negotiating a MiruTyton offtake with a major feed-additive company. According to information released by WDL, ProTyton fermentation is similar to that of ethanol, which allows the process to be co-located with ethanol plants.

While WDL said it has developed and scaled up the anaerobic fermentation for its production, the company noted plant operation will be supported by the management of Midwest Renewable Energy, a corn ethanol plant located near Sutherland, Nebraska, that has added WDL’s PtoTyton production technology to its plant.

“We have been collaborating with WDL for the past two years and are excited to support the conversion and ramp-up of their first plant,” said Jim Jandrain, MRE’s chairman of the board. “We are impressed with the simple ProTyton process and are looking forward for MRE to become the second ProTyton plant.”

According to WDL, the Little Falls facility has a CleanSugar production module made by FQPT. The company said a membrane filtration system will be provided by Graver Technologies, while the reengineering of the plant for ProTyton is being carried out by AdvanceBio.