Thursday, March 03, 2011

More Valuable By-Products from Grain Ethanol Production

Critics of grain ethanol -- such as maize ethanol -- sometimes make a great deal out of the energy demands of the production process vs. the energy output of the product. But they typically ignore the host of valuable by-products and energy work-arounds which clever ethanol producers utilise, in order to stay in business in a competitive environment. And as in any commercial enterprise, the energy balance of the process is far less important than the economic balance.

In Germany, Verbio is a biogas operation which utilises the biomass offal from ethanol producers to produce biogas -- which can be cleaned and sold on the German gas market.
verbiogas is produced exclusively from biomass residues materials such as slope, a by-product of bioethanol production, and straw. The biogas is processed to the same quality standard as natural gas, and then fed into the existing natural gas network and made available as a fuel at natural gas filling stations.

This was awarded the biogas innovation prize by the German Energy Agency (dena) in December 2010. _GCC
The Verbiogas operation is co-sited with ethanol production facilities, for more economical feedstock flow.

Other valuable by-products such as corn oil, dried distiller's grains, corn gluten meal, fish feed, and other materials yet to be discovered.

Persons who rely upon simplistic EROEI calculations without understanding the larger economic market, are almost certain to fixate upon a false conception of the incentives driving the marketplace. There are always alternative methods of calculating energy balances, which reveal often hidden incentives for commercial and industrial players.

In the long run, affordable cellulosic sugars will overturn modern ethanol feedstocks -- including maize and cane. But until those become widely available, expect smart ethanol producers to scrap and fight for every bit of profit and advantage they can find.



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