Our ethanol experts and cellulosic ethanol experts are a world class group and ethanol consulting is a vital part of our business. The Ethanol Division of Lee Enterprises consists of leading business, financial, engineering and other experts in first and second generation biofuels. Our services include all aspects of this industry, including audits, due diligence and appraisals, RINS, government assistance and grants, quality assurance, regulatory and compliance, and plant design and fabrication. Strategic relationships are maintained with the top biofuels law firms, accounting groups, design engineering, and fabrication facilities worldwide. Our ETHANOL CONSULTING and CELLULOSIC ETHANOL CONSULTING – together with all our renewable energy consulting, alternative fuels consulting, bioenergy consulting, renewable chemicals consulting, and biomass consulting – is done by the top experts in the world!
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol is a renewable, domestically produced transportation fuel. It is a clear, colorless liquid, also known as known as ethyl alcohol. For use as a renewable fuel, ethanol is made from corn and other plant materials. It has the same chemical structure regardless of whether produced from starch- and sugar-based feedstocks, such as corn grain (as it primarily is in the United States), sugar cane (as it primarily is in Brazil), or from cellulosic feedstocks (which are dedicated energy crops, such as wood chips or crop residues).
There are two main types of corn ethanol production: dry milling and wet milling. In the dry milling process the corn kernel is ground into flour (known as “meal”). Water is then added to make a “mash”. Then enzymes are added to convert this starch to dextrose. Ammonia is then added to control the pH and to serve as a nutrient for the yeast to be added later. The mixture is processed at high-temperatures to reduce bacteria levels and transferred and cooled in fermenters. Yeast is then added and conversion from sugar to ethanol and carbon dioxide begins.
In a wet milling process, the corn grain is steeped in a diluted combination of sulfuric acid and water for one to two days to separate the grain into many components. The slurry mixture then goes through a series of grinders that separate the corn germ out. The corn oil by-product of this process is extracted and sold (or more recently used as a new revenue stream as a feedstock for biodiesel). The remaining components – fiber, gluten and starch are segregated out. The gluten protein is dried and filtered to make a corn gluten- meals co-product and is highly sought after by poultry broiler operators as a feed ingredient. The steeping liquor produced is concentrated and dried with the fiber and sold as corn gluten feed to in the livestock industry. The heavy steep water is also sold as a feed ingredient and is used as an alternative to salt in the winter months. The corn starch and remaining water can then be fermented into ethanol, dried and sold, or made into corn syrup.
The use of ethanol is widespread. Almost all gasoline in the U.S. contains a low-level blend E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) of ethanol. It is also widely available in higher level blends such as E-85 for use in flexible fuel vehicles.
Ethanol provides significant economic, environmental and security benefits and is gaining greater market share worldwide.
What is Cellulosic Ethanol?
Cellulosic ethanol is an alcohol made from biomass such as wood and agricultural residues (instead of the starches which are used to produce corn/grain ethanol). The difference between starch and cellulosic ethanol start with the plants. In the United States, starch ethanol is made from corn kernels. Cellulosic ethanol, however, starts with cellulose, the most abundant carbon-containing material on the planet and something found in virtually every natural, free-growing plant, tree, and bush in the world. Some cellulosic ethanol processes use all the carbon in the plant matter to produce ethanol. The process to make cellulosic ethanol is more complicated than the process to make corn ethanol.
While the starch ethanol industry has been around for many years, the cellulosic ethanol industry is fairly new and still being developed. There are many new processes and companies examining the industry and it is positioned to grow greatly over the next several years.