CPT: MarketFlex provides producers with flexibility during tough economy

By Hope Deutscher | June 03, 2009
Report posted June 10, 2009, at 5:09 p.m. CST

A patented flexible corn dry fractionation technology helps producers during tough economic times, according to Reg Ankrom, director of market development for Cereal Process Technologies LLC.

Known as MarketFlex, the technology allows ethanol plants to take advantage of the most profitable ethanol and coproduct markets. And the patented process may have helped one producer during these tough economic times.

Kansas-based CPT saw the need to give ethanol producers the ability to tailor their product and coproduct stream to help assure they could stay profitable, even during price swings in the ethanol and coproduct markets, said Ankrom. "What we determined several months ago was that in today's economic climate for ethanol, producers were getting squeezed considerably by higher corn prices and lower values for ethanol and that cuts into the margin significantly," he said. "MarketFlex was developed as a result of the economy and recognition that our fractionation system provides the highest quality starch, germ and bran stream but that high quality system doesn't necessarily meet the requirements of the market when the economy is tanking. We gave some thought to what our mill could do and it didn't take much in the way of adjustment to create a system where the ethanol producer can choose his own market."

Using CPT's corn dry milling systems, MarketFlex allows ethanol producers to precisely "dial in" the corn kernel's fractions which are valued the most at any given time. The patented process separates the corn kernel's endosperm, which is rich in starch, from the kernel's non-fermentable corn germ and bran. Within minutes, Ankrom said, a producer can change the fractioned streams without shutting down or slowing down operations at either the ethanol or fractionation plant.

CPT has been working with Wisconsin's largest ethanol producer, Renew Energy in Jefferson, Wis., which owns and operates a 130 MMgy facility that included CPT's fractionation technology when it was built and now uses MarketFlex. According to CPT, using fractionation, ethanol production increased 17 percent at Renew Energy's facility.

Renew Energy also operates a 52 MMgy plant in Utica, Wis. Earlier this year, Renew Energy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. According to a Renew Energy statement at the time of the bankruptcy filing, the company was expecting to emerge mid-year from bankruptcy through a balance sheet restructuring or sale of the business; and it planned to continue operations to optimize attractiveness to potential investors or acquirers. The court is now supervising the plant, which continues to operate and use fractionation.

Driven by the economy, Ankrom said other facilities are also interested in mitigating their risk by using MarketFlex. "The economy is having ethanol plants look at ways that they can enhance their plant. The sustainability of ethanol will depend on enhancing plants. With the squeeze created by high corn prices and lower ethanol prices, we've got to find ways to enhance the value of ethanol and we've all know that fractionation can do it but before we faced the current economy it didn't make a whole lot of difference because ethanol was king, it was very glamorous a few years ago. Now it's commoditizing and the result is that people are looking for ways to improve the capital that they've invested and get the most out of what they've invested," Ankrom added.

In addition to Renew, three other facilities are also using the process. Two of those facilities are industrial applications; the third is a food-grade application that produces brewers grits for use in beer production.

Ankrom will be presenting information at the International Distillers Grains Conference on June 14-15 and the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo on June 15-18. Both conferences will be in Denver.

IDGC- Separating Frac From Fiction
Monday, June 15, 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. - Colorado Convention Center

FEW - Biorefining - The Economics of Fractionation - Part 1
Tuesday, June 15, 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. - Colorado Convention Center

For more information, read the following articles published by Ethanol Producer Magazine: