May 02, 2016

Member Spotlight – Quad County Corn Processors’ Cellerate Process

By Austin Dabney

The ethanol industry is built on growth and innovation. Ethanol plants are often formed by a few determined individuals who see an opportunity to create homegrown biofuels businesses and uplift rural communities. Quad County Corn Processors (Quad County or QCCP for short) was initially formed in 2000 in Galva, Iowa, a rural community in the northwest corner of the state. They began producing ethanol in 2002, starting out with an 18 million gallon production capacity, which has since grown to 35 million gallons a year. The facility is truly a reflection of the community, as 353 local farmers and investors all have a stake in the company. QCCP has grown from its infancy into a plant on the cutting edge of cellulosic ethanol production, implementing a process called Cellerate in order to greatly enhance ethanol production efficiency.

Quad County began as a smaller-capacity facility, and in 2008 began a research and development effort to look for innovative ways to enter niche markets. In doing so, they turned to cellulosic ethanol production, which is how the Cellerate technology was born. In conventional production, starch is removed from the corn kernel and processed into ethanol. Quad County launched the Cellerate process in 2014, pre-treating the same corn kernels they would normally use, which allowed them to also remove the fiber from the kernel and convert it into ethanol as well. This additional step may seem like a minor technical detail, but it provides immense benefits and is a prime example of the sustainable mindset that is a hallmark of the ethanol industry. The Cellerate process at Quad County produces an additional 2 million gallons of ethanol annually (over 3 million gallons to date) from the same amount of corn.

Looking at broader applications of the technology, Quad County’s CEO, Delayne Johnson, said “If the Cellerate process is added to all existing dry grind ethanol plants in the United States, the ethanol industry would produce an additional 2 billion gallons of ethanol without processing any more corn. We have collaborated with Syngenta, who has the exclusive licensing rights in the U.S. and Canada to make Cellerate available to all ethanol plants in order to make the additional 2 billion gallons a reality.”

According to Air Improvement Resource Inc.’s analysis of Cellerate in 2011 using the GREET model, a gallon of cellulosic ethanol produced with the Cellerate process reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 126 percent compared to conventional gasoline using the same amount of corn. Furthermore, removing the fiber out of the corn kernel produces Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) with a higher than average protein content, which is put to great use as livestock feed. Certain types of livestock, like swine and poultry, can’t digest the fiber that remains in standard DDGS, so the Cellerate process eliminates that waste. The process also creates twice as much corn distiller’s oil per bushel of corn, which can be used in feedstock as well, or to make biodiesel.

Quad County Corn Processors is, in essence, wringing all of the productivity out of the corn kernel and then returning the co-products to the food chain. They use each kernel of corn for multiple purposes to produce fuel and to provide protein-rich feed to local farmers for a fair price. Their drive toward sustainability and efficiency comes at a time when the fossil fuel industry is turning to fracking in order to meet their production demands, while ignoring the harmful effects the process can have. Currently, researchers are looking into the correlation between fracking and contaminated groundwater as well as an increase in earthquakes, just to name a few potentially serious implications from fracking.

In short, Ethanol producers, including Quad County and its 40 employees, want what is best for this country. As Mr. Johnson put it, “We are extremely proud to produce very low carbon intensity, high-octane fuel that replaces toxic carcinogens in the fuel all consumers purchase, while also reducing their costs.  Going forward, we would like to see auto manufacturers produce high compression engines that are optimized for high octane blends and greater fuel economy. The technology exists today to manufacture engines that would best utilize the cleaner fuel we produce with the Cellerate process.”  In short, Quad County is a homegrown business committed to sustainable practices in order to give Americans clean, high performance fuel, while supporting American farmers.


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