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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS OF RENEWABLE FUELS DERIVED FROM GRAINS AND RELATED BIOMASS

Location: Sustainable Biofuels and Co-Products

2010 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Lower the cost of fuel ethanol production from corn and barley through improved dry grind and dry milling fractionation techniques, including a new 'ammoniation' process. Develop more efficient processes for converting hulled and hulless barley to fuel ethanol and improved, beta-glucan-free, feed coproducts. Through research assist in creation of a new hulless barley-to-ethanol industry in corn deficient regions, particularly the Mid Atlantic States and the North Western U.S. Use the low-starch ('low carb') and high-fiber, high-oil, and high-protein fractions recovered from corn and barley prior to ethanol fermentation to produce health-promoting food ingredients, functional foods, and extruded snacks. Develop improved processes to convert low valued crop-related biomass, byproducts and energy crops being researched in the ARS energy crop program into renewable hydrogen or liquid fuels and conduct economic feasibility studies for integrating this technology into co-located dry grind ethanol plants. Develop small-scale thermo-chemical technologies that economically, efficiently, and sustainably produce hydrogen and coproducts from agricultural materials.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Develop a continuous corn ammoniator for improving the conversion of corn to fuel ethanol. Conduct research to develop new dry de-germinators, roller mills, and associated fractionation devices with and without 'ammoniation' as a 'front end' to the traditional dry grind ethanol process. Use these techniques on corn and hulled barley to produce high-starch fractions for more efficient fermentations, and low-starch fractions that can be used as value added health-promoting 'low-carb' food ingredients, healthy edible oils and nutraceuticals. Use newly developed hulless barley cultivars and develop new beta-glucan-degrading enzyme technology to reduce fermentation viscosity and improve the production of ethanol from barley. Prepare hulless barley DDGS from beta-glucanase treated fermentations and examine as high-valued feeds for non-ruminants and aquaculture. Low-valued barley hulls and corn bran from corn and barley ethanol processing and energy crops and residues like switch grass, Eastern gama grass, reed canary grass, alfalfa, and corn stover will be studied as substrates for conversion to hydrogen and related liquid and gaseous fuels by thermochemical processes in a pyrolyzer (pyroprobe) coupled to a gas chromatograph/mass-spectrometer (PY-GC/MS) to analyze gasification products. Promising substrates will be converted in a 2-inch bench-top fluidized-bed reactor to test selected feedstock for yields of H2, syngas, char and pyrolytic oil. Process modeling and economic analysis will be conducted on all the technologies studied, to help direct research toward the most fruitful and commercially feasible areas.


3.Progress Report
This is the final report for the project 1935-41000-072-00D. No research was conducted on this project in 2010 since it terminated in October in 2009. Over the course of the 5 year project, significant accomplishments were made and they include the following:

In 2009 we published a landmark study of the US ethanol industry and found corn production costs in the US declined by 62% from 1983-2005 years due to better production methods and improved yields. We also found that processing costs for conversion of corn to ethanol declined by 45% from 1983-2005 and the total costs of production (including capital and net corn costs) declined approximately 60% during this period. Energy costs also decreased approximately 50% over this period despite increasing costs of energy.

We facilitated the development of a new winter barley ethanol industry to create new economic opportunities for rural areas of the Mid Atlantic States. We worked with partners to develop new improved varieties of winter barley. We developed a new EDGE barley ethanol process that takes less energy and produces more ethanol and higher quality DDGS from barley. We also developed new nutraceutical coproducts and fractionation processes for the barley ethanol process. We developed CRADAs with industry and partnered with a group that has now built the first Advanced winter barley ethanol plant in the US.

We created the first Thermochemical-conversion (pyrolysis) research program in ARS and grew it from a small component to a major component of the project. During this project, we acquired laboratory scale pyrolysis equipment, analytical equipment, and built a unique pilot scale pyrolysis reactor. We created one of the top pyrolysis laboratories in the world and did fundamental and applied research studies on numerous feedstocks, including switchgrass, oak, alfalfa, soy straw, barley straw, hulls and DDGS, guayule, reed canary grass, corn stover, pennycress, canola, and others. We also advanced the way for distributed catalytic pyrolysis to be a likely future way for the local production of biomass based bio-crude oil that could be refined in our present day petroleum refining industry. During this project, numerous CRADAs and competitive grants were obtained and major US and foreign companies have become stakeholders and partners in the research.

We developed and distributed 1000’s of copies of a sophisticated computer model of the dry grind ethanol process. The computer model contains all unit operations and product streams in a state-of-the-art ethanol plant and it predicts available one of its type, is used around the world for educational and research purposes actual cost for production of fuel ethanol in a 40 million gallon per year facility under defined costs for feedstock, chemicals, labor, and utilities. It allows researchers and others to understand the fuel ethanol process and to conduct research which will lower the cost of fuel ethanol and the amount of fossil energy used in its production. It was also used by the EPA for rulemaking for RFS2.


Review Publications
Nghiem, N.P., Hicks, K.B., Johnston, D., Senske, G.E., Kurantz, M.J., Li, M., Shetty, J., Janda-Konieczny, G. 2010. Production of ethanol from barley by a conventional process and the EDGE (Enhanced Dry Grind Enzymatic) process. Biotechnology for Biofuels. 3:8. doi:10.1186/1754-6834-3-8.

Mullen, C.A., Boateng, A.A., Goldberg, N.M., Lima, I.M., Laird, D.A., Hicks, K.B. 2010. Bio-oil and biochar production from corn cobs and stover by fast pyrolysis. Biomass and Bioenergy. 34:67-74.

Taylor, F., Marquez, M., Johnston, D., Goldberg, N.M., Hicks, K.B. 2010. Continuous High-solids corn liquefaction and fermentation with stripping of ethanol. Bioresource Technology. 101:4403-4408.

Mullen, C.A., Boateng, A.A., Hicks, K.B., Goldberg, N.M., Moreau, R.A. 2010. Analysis and comparison of bio-oil produced by fast pyrolysis from three barley biomass/byproduct streams. Energy and Fuels. 24:699-706.

Moreau, R.A. 2009. Lipid analysis via HPLC with a charged aerosol detector. Lipid Technology. 21:191-193.

Srinivasan, R., Hicks, K.B., Challa, R.K., Wilson, J., Kurantz, M.J., Moreau, R.A. 2010. Fractionation of barley flour using a combination of sieving and air classification. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 53(2):503-508.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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