Engineering study looks at ethanol plus bolt-on green diesel

By Holly Jessen | March 07, 2012

Al-Corn Clean Fuel, a 50 MMgy plant in Claremont, Minn., is working with a St. Paul company investigating secondary production of green diesel at a new or existing ethanol plant. The project is fueled with $248,000 in grant money from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which recently passed out a total of $2.4 million in funding to nine renewable energy projects.

JetE LLC  has successfully converted corn oil, a coproduct of ethanol production, into drop-in green diesel and jet fuels and has a commercially available reactor, said Gordon Ommen, CEO. Working in cooperation with Al-Corn and the University of Minnesota, the company is now researching what it would take to integrate the technology with an existing or newly built ethanol plant. In the end the company will have a “template” it can provide to other ethanol production facilities considering the technology.

This stage of the process isn’t about actually adding on green diesel production at Al-Corn, clarified Randy Doyal, CEO of the ethanol plant. It’s an exploration of one technology among many ideas out there. “We want to create as much value from every bushel we process as we possibly can,” he told EPM, adding that the company tries to “leave no stone unturned” in its search for new ways to add value.  “We’re just fortunate enough to have a relationship with JetE that allows us a sooner, quicker look [at this technology] and we’re willing to host them as they do the study.”

JetE’s technology utilizes hydrotreating of lipids to produce on-spec green diesel and jet fuels that is compatible with existing diesel engines. The fuels offer an 80.3 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the company’s website. JetE is now working on a feedstock analysis, Ommen said, adding that the company is currently looking at a 30 MMgy green diesel plant integrated with an ethanol plant, with 10 MMgy coming from each of three feedstocks: corn oil, waste greases and soy oil. If corn oil were the only feedstock it would take a significant amount to keep the drop-in-fuel plant running. “One gallon of feedstock makes one gallon of fuel, so it would take 30 MMgy of corn oil to make 30 MMgy of fuel,” he said.