|July 12, 2004,
ARS News Service: Agricultural Research Service
scientists are demonstrating that they can reduce ethanol
fuel production costs by developing less expensive techniques
for milling the corn used to make the fuel.
Computers are playing a key role in this research at
the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), in
Wyndmoor, Pa., where scientists have completed several
computer research models for performing cost analyses
for ethanol production.
One model can estimate the cost per gallon to produce
ethanol with various processes, according to Andy McAloon,
head cost engineer with the ERRC's Crop Conversion Science
and Engineering Unit. He and chemical engineer Winnie
Yee help researchers at ERRC create computer models
that predict the costs of possible alternatives to standard
One model helps estimate costs for making ethanol by
dry-grind processes, in which corn kernels are converted
into ethanol without salvaging fiber, germ (oil) and
protein. ERRC chemical engineer Frank Taylor worked
with McAloon and Yee to update a 25-million-gallon-a-year
model for dry-grind ethanol production to a 40-million-gallon
version, the size of most new plants.
The model can examine a number of possibilities, such
as developing new processes to reclaim waste heat, or
to convert some of the fiber to ethanol. The model also
will predict how these steps would affect the cost of
making a gallon of ethanol.
In addition to dry-grind models, ERRC food technologist
David Johnston worked with the other ARS scientists
to create what they believe will be the first publicly
available corn wet milling process and cost model. Wet
milling involves separating components from starch before
using it for ethanol production. Developed in cooperation
with the Corn Refiners Association and the University
of Illinois, the model will be used to improve an ERRC
wet milling process using unique enzymes. This process
requires much less sulfur dioxide during the steeping
stage of wet milling than traditional wet milling.
Read more about this research in Agricultural Research
magazine available online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jul04/corn0704.htm