A new low-cost process for separating more oil from corn kernels before they are fermented could improve the efficiency of ethanol production, as well as increase the value of the co-products. Developed by Renessen LLC, a joint venture between Cargill and Monsanto, this new process could be added on the front end of most existing dry-grind ethanol plants to make them more efficient.

Called the Renessen Corn Processing System, this new mechanical process captures a high percentage of the oil from the corn prior to fermentation, explains Doug Rushing, the company’s director of public and government affairs. “This not only retrieves the oil but reduces the amount of nonfermentable material going into the ethanol plant, making it more efficient.”

The new process is expected to result in a reduction of one-third to one-half the normal amount of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) produced at the back end of the ethanol process, he adds. “But the corn oil and nutrient-rich feed ingredient we extract initially adds more value to every bushel of corn going into a plant. Vegetable oil sells for $0.26 to $0.30/lb., versus just $0.02 to $0.03/lb. for DDGS.

“Also, we're reducing our natural gas costs because there is less DDGS to dry,” Rushing adds. “So, overall, we're not just adding more value to the corn, but also saving money in the ethanol production process. The other major benefit in this system is the production of a valuable, nutrient-rich feed that can be utilized by the local pork producers.”

Renessen is completing construction of a new pilot plant near Eddyville, IA, and expects to begin processing corn there in early 2007. The company contracted just more than 7,000 acres of high-oil corn for sale to the plant this past season, and Rushing says the plant will contract for at least 10,000 acres of Mavera high-value corn in 2007.

“We will also be working with researchers at several universities to conduct feeding trials,” he adds. “If everything works as well as we expect it will at the pilot plant, we will be able to license this technology to future and existing dry-mill ethanol plants as a bolt-on system. Right now, about 70% of the existing ethanol plants use the dry-mill process.”

For more information, contact Renessen LLC, Dept. FIN, 520 Lake Cook Rd., Suite 220, Deerfield, IL 60015, 847/236-5101, www.renessen.com.