• The Conference

In your presentation during the 2018 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, you’ll be discussing how to implement an effective plant trial. Can you give us a preview of one or two of the most important aspects to consider?
In order to properly evaluate the success and potential payback of a trial, a plant must determine an appropriate and representative baseline. Although a certain degree of operational variability is inevitable because of upsets, shutdowns, substrate variability (i.e. new corn crop etc.), a plant trial will benefit from steady-state operation and altering a single variable at a time. Trial timing and planning to avoid changing multiple conditions will validate the introduction of new ingredients and chemicals or the modification of process parameters. Accurate and consistent data collection goes hand in hand with establishing this baseline, and monitoring the trial success criteria.

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits is a leader in yeast products for the ethanol industry, but what other areas of expertise will you draw on in your presentation? Can you give a few details on the company’s experience in those areas?
Ethanol plants are constantly innovating, adapting new products and bolt-on technologies to increase yields and diversify coproducts with improved margins. By pushing rates, new bottlenecks surface that need to be addressed to benefit fully from the technology. Lallemand has a dedicated team of technical services managers from the industry, each with skill sets developed through years of in-plant experience and knowledge of fuel ethanol plant designs including ICM, Delta T, Katzen and Vogelbusch. We draw on each other’s areas of expertise when visiting plants, assisting in troubleshooting fermentation, as well as front- and back-end unit operations. As an example, plant hygiene is increasingly being identified as a factor negatively impacting yield. Lallemand has a hygiene-audit team that visits plants to investigate areas of potential bacterial contamination. By removing deadlegs and making adjustments to their cleaning protocols, plants can improve their fermentation performance with minimal costs.

Can you give a brief overview of two of the performance metrics you’ll be addressing in your presentation?
Given the popularity of glucoamylase-producing biotech yeast (including Lallemand’s TransFerm product line) and new enzyme products to improve yield, conversion of DP4+ into glucose is closely monitored during the optimization phase of a plant trial. Improving fermentation kinetics is our focus when recommending recipe and temperature changes to a plant. We work closely with plants to ensure adequate enzyme addition to optimize ethanol production. If glucoamylase dosing is reduced too quickly or too much, incomplete sugar conversion could result in a yield loss, which may negate the benefits of saving on enzyme costs. But excessive glucoamylase can also result in higher glucose levels, which could be detrimental to the yeast. Infection can reduce yield, so a second performance metric we also closely monitor is lactic and acetic acid production. Following our hygiene-audit team’s recommendations, a reduction in delta organic acid production is expected to correlate with an increased final ethanol concentration.

See Murdy Speak On Tuesday, June 12 (1:30 pm - 3:00 pm)
Predicting the Potential for Success from New Production Approaches by Using Well Designed Trials and Simulations

In your presentation, you’ll discuss converting thin stillage to higher-value revenue streams. What products will you focus on and how do the markets for those products look currently?
Xylome has developed a new yeast fermentation for converting thin stillage into a palm-oil substitute that is suitable for both biodiesel and other consumer products. The commodity value of palm oil is about $0.32 per pound, with a global market size above $70 billion per year. Further, growing consumer awareness and shifting government regulations across the world suggest that the future is looking bright for alternative and environmentally friendly sources of palm oil. As an added value, our yeast platform also produces its own amylases. The enzyme market is obviously very competitive, but our technology could help ethanol plants reduce their operating expenses in this area.

What makes Xylome’s yeast product effective for conversion of stillage to oil for subsequent production of biodiesel? Can you tell us what producers can expect as far as yields of corn oil and of biodiesel?
Xylome’s expertise is in the world of nonconventional (i.e. non-Saccharomyces) yeast biotechnology. Our strains are capable of consuming nearly all of the soluble organic materials left behind in thin stillage, which are simply untouched by the yeast during primary ethanol fermentation, and converting them into large intracellular oil deposits. Our metabolic engineering and strain development program have brought the potential cost of the Xylome oil palm oil substitute down to an attractive level. Based on current byproduct levels, an average-sized ethanol plant could generate approximately $62 million in gross revenue and greater than $5 million in net revenue by adopting our patent-pending Xylome oil process. Biodiesel could then be generated by a downstream end-user of the palm oil substitute.

With development of the yeast product underway, what work is yet to be done before it can be sold commercially, and is there a timeline in place for that work?
While strain development often feels like a never-ending quest, we project that the cost of Xylome oil made by fermentation at ethanol plants is already competitive with the current cost of palm oil. We are currently scaling up the process, and are seeking either a major ethanol producer as a strategic partner or strategic investors to complete the downstream process optimization. Our next step is to build a demonstration plant, upon which a commercialization package will be made available to the broader ethanol industry. Other investments in regulatory submissions and marketing are also required.

See CalveySpeak On Tuesday, June 12 (1:30 pm - 3:00 pm)
Towards a Better Line of Sight on Corn Oil Extraction Approaches and Overall Yield

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