Corn Plus: Microwave drying tests successful

By Timothy Charles Holmseth | March 10, 2008
Web exclusive posted April 7, 2008 at 10:34 a.m. CST

Winnebago, Minn.-based Corn Plus has field tested a microwave drying process developed by Cellencor Corporation. In March, the pilot system operated for eight days at the ethanol plant to determine the economical impact the energy-saving system might deliver.

Doug Litwiller, project manager at Alliant Energy, said the results were positive. "The numbers that were received, that we recorded, reflected numbers very similar to numbers we had originally projected early on," he said. Cellencor has publicized that ethanol producers could save 20 percent or more in operating costs by using the process. "It [would be] significantly less on the dollars per ton basis to dry [corn] using the microwave system, versus the traditional natural gas fire dryer," he said.

Karmen Wilhelm, spokeswoman for Alliant Energy, said the financial advantages of using the microwave drying process can be seen in multiple ways, including use of less energy. "Because it's a lower heat, the quality of the feed product they end up with is a higher quality – there is also the introduction of enzymes – this allows the ethanol producer to then sell the by-product as feed product at a higher price," she said.

Litwiller adds, the quality of the distillers dried grains is higher because significantly less damage is done to the amino acids as result of lower heating temperatures. "The temperature it is exposed to is much less than the traditional steam-fire natural gas fire systems," he said. "In terms of the moisture contents of the DDG – they consistently are dried to under 10 percent."

Litwiller added, "at this point we think we have pretty much completed the testing phase and we are going to start putting together actual commercial systems that we are going to be proposing to a couple of ethanol plants sometime here in the next two to four weeks."

Litwiller said he applauded Corn Plus for being the first in the United States to utilize a one-of-a-kind bed reactor technology at an ethanol plant to assist in advancing the breaking technology.