Corn Plus joins Chicago Climate Exchange

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy | August 27, 2007
Corn Plus has been an industry leader in reducing energy consumption, and now it will get a reward beyond energy savings for its efforts. In August, the 44 MMgy ethanol plant in Winnebago, Minn., joined the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the world's first and North America's only voluntary, legally binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction, registry and trading program. Corn Plus is the first independent ethanol plant to join CCX and commit to overall emissions reductions. Ag giant Cargill joined CCX in March.

Corn Plus will receive carbon credits for reducing its natural gas consumption by 52 percent. This reduction will generate 63,000 tons of credits, which equals approximately $240,000 in additional annual revenue, according to Jim Murphy of Carbon Green LLC. Carbon Green, which develops and manages high-quality greenhouse gas credits, is helping Corn Plus with its credits.

Corn Plus reduced its natural gas consumption through a fluidized bed boiler that burns the concentrated syrup as a fuel. "Four years ago, we looked at how we could become more efficient and reduce energy costs," said General Manager Keith Kor. "When everyone else was expanding their plants, we decided to focus on being a low-cost producer. That's why we did the fluidized bed boiler, and why we looked at wind and other ways."

After the boiler was installed in 2005, Murphy contacted Kor about the possibility of the ethanol plant joining the CCX. The process was started in the fall of 2006, but the actual application to join the CCX wasn't filed until June. "Throughout the winter, we had to do some verification to justify the credits that we received," Kor said. "It was quite a lengthy process. We had to write the protocol for how the credits would be established for our fluidized bed boiler technology on the natural gas savings."

Carbon Green and Environmental Credit Corp. are working to establish credits for other emissions-reducing technologies at Corn Plus, such as wind energy. Corn Plus installed two 2.1 megawatt wind turbines in late July. Kor said they cover half of the plant's electricity demand.

As far as getting credits for ethanol production are concerned, Kor said there isn't an answer yet. "Right now, they're trying to get a determination on who receives the credits," Kor said. "Is it the ethanol producer, consumer of ethanol or the farmer producing the feedstock?" Carbon Green is working with the CCX on the protocol for giving credits to biofuels. Murphy told EPM he expects the protocol to be determined this fall.