New biorefineries to produce fuel and food

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th June 2008

ICM, Inc., a US leader in the ethanol industry, has announced that ethanol biorefineries will be capable of commercially producing both food and fuel in 2010.

“We are talking about the ‘ethanol biorefinery of the future’…and very near future at that,” proclaimed Dave Vander Griend, founder, president and CEO of ICM. “Fifty years ago, the U.S. fed the world. We will be able to do that again with a food supply brought about by the evolution of ethanol production.”

The recent uproar about ethanol in response to rising food prices has prompted existing biorefineries to explore means of maintaining financial success in challenging tight-
ethanol, high-corn price markets. ICM have reported that their mission is to sustain agriculture through innovation and have sought to improve biorefineries via the use of a process called dry fractionation.

Food for fuel

Vander Griend says dry fractionation, the first component of ICM’s new six-part ‘Food AND Fuel’ technology package, can be installed as early as the fourth quarter of this year, with production coming on line in the second quarter of 2009. The process optimizes the whole kernel to allow for the production of a host of food-grade and feed-grade co-products, as well as another alternate fuel source to power the process.

The new technology also provides several other advantages for biorefineries – according to ICM, including: a guaranteed increase in ethanol production capacity, reduced natural gas consumption, decreased enzyme usage, a platform for emerging technologies and a bridge to cellulosic ethanol.

“We have always believed that ethanol is part of the solution to our economic, energy and environmental issues and this is what we are doing to make ethanol better. We can now make food during the ethanol process, we can process ethanol in an efficient and more environmentally-friendly way, and we can help retain more of our energy dollars in the U.S. while creating new markets for diversified global agriculture,” Mr Vander Griend concluded.

The issue of subsidies in the US via the “food for fuel” program has come under great scrutiny this year as food prices have skyrocketed. Almost a quarter of the corn produced in the US this year is likely to be redirected toward ethanol production and the US Department has attributed almost 20 per cent of the rises in food prices to biofuels. Similarly, the EU has been under pressure to reduce ethanol production targets as the world looks to find a way to reduce food prices and quell fears of a global food shortage.