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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

MN Corn Growers Project
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Adding value to ethanol production byproduct (distillers grain) through production of biochar and bio-oil

Kurt Spokas

In collabroation with Roger Ruan and Robert Morrison (University of Minnesota)

 

Download final report

 

Project Goal:  The goal of this project is to increase the value of distillers grain (DDGS) by sequestering carbon and producing additional renewable energy resources (bio-oil and syngas) through microwave assisted pyrolysis.  More specifically, we will have an optimized process for capturing additional bio-energy, and at the same time producing a potential soil improvement agent from an existing byproduct.  We will examine the potential increase in soil fertility and carbon storage of this produced biochar.  The potential long-term outcomes of this research are the development and promotion of on-farm energy production using microwave assisted pyrolysis and distillers grain as a feedstock as well as improving the sustainability of corn production through returning carbon to the field.

 

View graphical overview of project

 

5 different biochars were created for this project, from a mixture of DDGS and corn stover (See table below). 


Table 1. Percentage of MAP products formed from the various feedstcok compositions.

 

Feedstock

Char

(%)

Liquid phases

Gas

(%)

Organic Phase

(%)

Water Phase

(%)

100% DDGS*

25.0

18.3

27.5

29.2

100% Corn stover

27.8

38.9

33.3

DDGS:Corn stover 50:50

25.4

41.8

32.8

DDGS:Corn stover 25:75

26.2

43.7

30.1

DDGS:Corn stover 75:25*

27.0

17.2

28.6

27.2

*Note: Phase separation was observed for pure DDGS and DDGS:Corn stover 75:25, yields of oil (organic) and water phase were reported individually.

 


Representative biochars are shown in Figure 1.

Biochar Figure

Figure 1. Illustration of the visual changes between the raw feedstocks and the produced microwave assisted pyrolysis (MAP) biochars (Note: Only 3 of the five evaluated biochars are shown in the figure)

Lab Incubations

Figure 2. Illustration of controlled temperature incubatons for the assessment of alterations in the GHG production potential of Minnesota agricultural soil following MAP biochar additions.

 

 

Aknowledgement

MN Corn Growers

This project is supported, in part, by the farm families of Minnesota and their corn check-off investment (MCGA/MCR&PC) also by the Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment [Project RM-0033-10].

 


Last Modified: 1/9/2013