New Study Shows Ethanol Production Reducing Energy and Environmental Footprint

A new study has found that the amount of energy necessary to produce corn ethanol has been decreasing in recent years due to new technology innovations.

A new study entitled “2012 Corn Ethanol: Emerging Plant Energy and Environmental Technologies” found that recent innovations in corn ethanol production have resulted in increased yield per bushel even as less energy is required for production. Thermal energy use at a typical dry mill ethanol plant has fallen 9% since 2008, the study found, meaning the carbon footprint of corn ethanol continues to shrink.

The authors, Steffen Mueller, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center and John Kwik, PE, of Dominion Energy Services, LLC wrote in summary, “Our work includes an assessment of over 50% of operating dry grind corn ethanol plants. On average, 2012 dry grind plants produce ethanol at higher yields with lower energy inputs than 2008 corn ethanol.”

They continue, “Furthermore, significantly more corn oil is separated at the plants now, which combined with the higher ethanol yields results in a slight reduction in DDG production and a negligible increase in electricity consumption.”

Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), comments on the new findings. “Once again, the innovation and dedication of this industry is borne out in the science and data. Ethanol producers are constantly evolving, innovating, and improving the production process. As a result, today’s ethanol industry is using less energy and water than ever before and greatly reducing GHG emissions associated with the corn ethanol lifecycle. Today’s ethanol producers are conscientious stewards of this country’s precious resources and this country’s energy future. The ethanol industry is a classic example of American ingenuity driving success.”

The study also summarizes several new technologies being adopted by ethanol producers and feedstock providers.

Read the study in full.