New Pilot Plant Could Help Boost Ethanol
November 23, 2001
In January 2003, a new pilot ethanol processing plant will open
in Edwardsville, Ill. The plant is considered essential to the industrys
goal of increasing ethanol production from todays 2 billion gallons a
year to 16 billion gallons a year during the next 10 to 15 years.
Thats because even though there is existing research,
conducted at the Agricultural Research
Service and elsewhere, demonstrating technologies that will make ethanol
production more competitive with gasoline, its hard to convince industry
to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to retrofit a plant with new
technology that hasnt been tested on a large scale. The new plant
emulates a commercial plant and will be built in modules so any part of the
production line can be easily replaced to test new equipment.
Various organizations concerned with ethanol research, including
the Illinois Corn Growers Association, the Illinois Department of Energy and
Natural Resources, the Illinois
Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, and
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville,
are sponsoring the plant.
ARS is administering the federal governments contributions
of $2 million for the design stage and $14 million of the $20 million
construction project. The state of Illinois is providing the remaining $6
At 23,000 square feet of floor space and with a capacity to
produce 50,000 gallons of ethanol a year, the two-story plant will be the
largest pilot ethanol plant in the country.
ARS will likely evaluate and demonstrate its latest ethanol
products and processing techniques at this plant as the final stage before
commercialization. Additional users will include other federal researchers,
university researchers, ethanol companies and equipment vendors.
ARS conducts laboratory-scale ethanol research at its
National Center for Agricultural
Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., as well as at the agencys
Western Regional Research Center at
Albany, Calif., and Eastern Regional
Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa.
Among the products ARS scientists might test at the new plant
are new enzymes being developed to improve the efficiency and environmental
soundness of ethanol production.