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New energy-saving technology being commercially-tested for ethanol plants


Cellencor’s microwave drying system is on-site at Corn Plus facility for eight days

Ethanol plants could significantly reduce their energy costs while at the same time increase the value of their byproducts with an exciting new technology that will begin commercial testing today in Winnebago, Minnesota. An innovative microwave drying process developed by Cellencor Corporation is being field-tested for the first time at Corn Plus, one of the largest ethanol facilities in the State of Minnesota.

A pilot system has been installed on site at Corn Plus that will operate for eight days to determine how well the Cellencor-patented technology works in conjunction with an actual ethanol plant. Interstate Power and Light Company (IPL), an Alliant Energy company, began meeting with Cellencor representatives about seven months ago and have helped the start-up firm make connections to other business partners and to Corn Plus so that they could test their cutting-edge technology.

“We are very excited about the potential of Cellencor’s microwave drying system and the dollar savings and new profit streams it could bring to ethanol plants across the country,” said Doug Litwiller, Alliant Energy Project Manager. “This technology may not only replace more expensive natural gas-fired drying processes but it could also greatly enhance the market value of an ethanol plant’s byproduct.”

The Cellencor industrial microwave drying line has been shown to be more efficient and reliable than traditional energy-intensive natural gas-fired distillers wet grain dryers in tests at Iowa State University’s BECON Facility. The experiment process line at the university also provided research on Cellencor’s enzyme-enhancemental process of an ethanol plant’s co-product – dried grains with solubles. The technology adds enzymes prior to low temperature drying, which improves the nutritional value of the co-product by ten to twenty percent. This provides higher quality feed for cattle, swine or poultry which can be sold for a higher price than what current ethanol plants receive for their co-product.

While research and testing of the technology is ongoing, initial results have been very positive. Estimates are that ethanol facilities could realize up to 20 percent or more in operating cost savings by utilizing the Cellencor industrial microwave drying process and the enzyme-enhanced dried grains with solubles. The simple payback on installing the system should be in the two to five year range but partners are hopeful that the commercial testing at Corn Plus will yield more data.

“We applaud Corn Plus for agreeing to test this process at their plant in Winnebago and we are hoping for strong results,” added Litwiller. “Corn Plus was the first in the United States to utilize a one-of-a-kind fluidized bed reactor technology at an ethanol plant and now they are helping us research another ground-breaking process.”

The basic goal of Cellencor’s microwave drying technology is to improve the bottom line for ethanol plants by significantly reducing drying energy cost, providing significant water recovery, having more reliable drying equipment and outputting higher-value animal feed. After the testing at Corn Plus, the company will refine the design of its microwave drying process and move ahead with feed trials.


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