The biofuels industry got married when a first generation ethanol plant walked down the isle with a second generation algae plant in Shenandoah, Iowa. BioProcess Algae and Green Plains Renewable Energy (GPRE) tied the knot and celebrated their anniversary last month with the announcement that their first babies, a set of Grower Harvester bioreactors, went online. This marked the last phase into adulthood – the algae plant is months away from commercial scale production.
Tim Burns, CEO of BioProcess Algae said this project is about both co-location opportunities as well as adding value to carbon. The algae plant will utilize the waste streams of the ethanol plant including waste nutrients and waste water. In addition, the algae plant uses the carbon dioxide from the corn ethanol plant to grow and thrive. Suddenly a product produced from a first generation ethanol plant with what amounts to negative value now has a tremendous positive value to a second generation plant. When people figure out that carbon from things such as a first generation ethanol plant has value, others will be on board, said Burns.
Years ago, Todd Becker, CEO of Green Plains Renewable Energy, said his company began looking for emerging technologies that could add value to his plant. These included adding things such as inedible corn oil extraction technology, but also the partnership with a second generation biorefinery that could utilize their plant’s waste streams. His company recognized the incredible partnership before any others and this fall his company along with BioProcess Algae will be building their algae farm, the last phase before they begin to produce commercial scale algae biofuels.
In the future, Becker and Burns both believe that every first generation biofuel plant will marry a second generation technology and with these marriages, the biofuels industry will rise to the challenge of producing billions upon billions of gallons of domestic renewable energy for America.
Learn more about the first biofuel marriage here: Domestic Fuel Cast