Improving Ethanol Production Efficiencies

Goal is to make a single industry standard that measures the ethanol yield potential of corn from all types of seed. Compiled by staff

Published on: Nov 4, 2004

Corn growers need to know fermentation characteristics of corn and ethanol yield potential of corn to improve ethanol efficiency. A new partnership announced today will eventually lead to an industry-wide standard to do that as well as improve profitability for producers.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has entered a licensing agreement with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a DuPont subsidiary, that will allow NCGA to use Pioneer’s high total fermentable (HTF) near infrared (NIR) rapid assay technology.

NCGA President Leon Corzine says a single industry standard that measures the ethanol yield potential of corn grown from all types of seed is important to corn growers. Therefore, NCGA is working with interested seed companies to involve them in the development of the final calibration product.

"We foresee a situation where two elevators just a few miles apart might be using different calibration systems," Corzine says. "And because of those two different systems, the same bushel of corn receives two different measurements. One standardized platform would be a key step toward making the process more consistent for farmers, while at the same time optimizing the efficiency of ethanol plants. We see a need for uniformity in this process."

Corzine says NCGA is uniquely situated to serve as a catalyst for establishing a standardized calibration tool. "NCGA is in a position to help ensure growers, ethanol producers and seed companies are all on the same page when it comes to quantifying the ethanol yield potential of corn," he says. "As more corn is used for ethanol each year, this is an issue that will certainly affect corn producers in the future, and it just makes sense that NCGA serves as the lead entity in establishing a standard."

Under the agreement, Pioneer will provide NCGA a royalty-free license for North America to the company’s HTF calibration and related data. NCGA will coordinate all activities related to establishing a single grain assay standard that is accurate and fair for corn growers and the ethanol industry. The technology, which quickly quantifies the ethanol yield potential of corn grain in the dry-grind process, will allow corn growers to provide grain that could improve the efficiency of ethanol plants and also will allow the seed industry access to a single standardized calibration.

NCGA, which signed a letter of intent with Pioneer in June, also will oversee relationships with research and testing laboratories and will establish a technical oversight committee to review all calibration upgrades.

Once the standard calibration product is established by NCGA and its industry partners, dry-grind ethanol plants would be able to license it from NCGA for measurement of grain with HTF technology. This measurement would allow ethanol plants to source grain with a higher potential ethanol yield, improving the efficiency and profitability of these plants. Grain elevators would also be able to license the calibration from NCGA, allowing the elevator to source grain that has potential to provide improved ethanol yield to the ethanol plants those elevators serve.

"Our intent is to improve the profitability and efficiency of corn growers, the seed industry and ethanol producers by accelerating the acceptance of a standard that is accurate and fair," Corzine says. "This initiative is a positive step forward for both U.S. corn growers and the ethanol industry."