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Dewatering enzymes boost ethanol production efficiency

By Gerald Parkinson |

A technique that improves the efficiency of ethanol plants by lowering the cost of dewatering the byproduct stillage (a slurry of corn solids and water) from the fermentation process has been developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Eastern Regional Research Center (Wyndmoor, Pa.; www.ars.usda.gov). The process has been demonstrated at full scale in a commercial plant operated by Center Ethanol Company (CEC; Sauget, Ill.). CEC produces 50-million gal/yr of ethanol from corn and 172,000 ton/yr of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), used for animal feed. Like other ethanol producers, CEC separates the ethanol from the solids, which are then dewatered sequentially by centrifugation, evaporation and drying to obtain DDGS. The USDA procedure improves dewatering by adding enzymes to the fermentation process. In the tests, performed on six 750,000-gal fermenters, the researchers added a cocktail of commercial cellulase enzymes supplied by Genencor (Rochester, N.Y.) using 1 lb of enzymes per 1,000 lb of corn. The enzymes break down the fibrous material (mostly hemicellulose) in the solids, thereby disrupting their water-binding ability, says scientist David Johnston. In the tests the enzymes improved…
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