Quad County receives $4.25 million for cellulosic ethanol add on

By Holly Jessen | July 26, 2012

Quad County Corn Cooperative, 30 MMgy corn-ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa, is a big step closer to installing a patent pending-system that will turn corn fiber into cellulosic ethanol. On July 25, the USDA and U.S. DOE announced it would invest $4.25 million in the project as part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. “We would be producing three items,” Delayne Johnson, the plant’s general manager, told EPM. “One is cellulosic ethanol the second one is additional corn oil— beyond what is a standard oil extraction system would do—and the third one is a higher value feed product that has high protein and low fiber.”

The company spent the last three years developing the process. It was invented by Travis Brotherson, who is the plant engineer and is also in charge of research and development, Johnson said. Commercial cellulosic enzymes marketed by multiple companies were successfully utilized during testing.

This isn’t the first time the company has received financial support for the project. Last summer, the company was awarded a $1.45 million grant from the Iowa Power Fund to build the bolt-on cellulosic ethanol production plant. Johnson declined to provide a total cost-estimate for the project but did say the company would be spending some of its own money. “We’re very excited about it,” he said.

Quad County Corn Cooperative is currently working to finalize engineering plans and obtain the necessary permits. The company hopes to begin construction by next spring and reach operational status by the third or fourth quarter of 2013.

The facility will produce about 1.8 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol, ramping up the plants total capacity to 31.8 MMgy, Johnson said. The process will result in 1.6 pounds of corn oil per bushel, up 1.1 pounds from the 0.5 pounds the ethanol plant is extracting currently. Due to the change in composition, the animal feed coproduct produced won’t exactly be distillers grains and will have similarities to corn gluten meal. In addition, output will reduce to about 85 percent of the distillers grains produced currently. “We expect that we’ll come out with a new name for the high protein, low fat product,” he said.

The project at Quad County Corn Cooperative is one of 13 investments announced “as part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to enhance U.S. energy security, reduce America's reliance on imported oil and leverage our domestic energy supply,” the DOE and USDA said in a joint statement. In all, $41 million was invested in five projects intended to diversify the energy portfolio of the U.S. and displace gasoline and eight projects with the goal of applying biomass genomics to improve biofuel feedstocks. More information about the other projects is available through Energy.gov.

“If we want to develop affordable alternatives for oil and gasoline that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we need investments like these projects to spur innovation in bioenergy,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By producing energy more efficiently and sustainably, we can create rural jobs, boost rural economies and help U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters prosper.”

On the same day, the DOE also released a new video that lays out how biofuel efficiency is advancing and production costs are decreasing.