July 21, 2008

Ethanol Production – More Spending, Research on Tap at Caldwell Ethanol Plant

By Carlson, Brad

Idaho Ethanol Processing plans to spend $3 million to $6 million in the next year or so to fine-tune and improve the "food-chain- friendly" ethanol plant in Caldwell.

Capital projects will aim to eliminate bottlenecks in the process, reduce the plant's overall energy usage, and take advantage of methane from potato processing as a primary source of steam, said Scott MacKenzie, New Orleans-based vice president of business development for operator ED&F Man.

Idaho Ethanol Processing also plans to work with Idaho universities, the Idaho Falls-based Center for Advanced Energy Studies, state officials and the private sector, he said. The group will analyze established and potential feed stocks in the Caldwell plant, and the potential for developing an energy park next to the plant. The plant fronts Idaho 19 across from the J.R. Simplot Co. potato-processing complex.

"They would be accessible, and our primary focus is to create this overall energy park with Simplot and the universities to develop advanced bio-fuel opportunities and other energy-related opportunities," said MacKenzie, who serves on an Idaho bio fuels task force. "It's sort of in the infant stage, but the land is available, the support is there and the intellectual capital is there."


with Idaho Ethanol Processing and J.R. Simplot Co. have discussed starting the energy park on a contiguous site where Simplot once operated a feedlot, he said. Occupants could include companies involved in advancing bio fuels and other energy technologies, and energy researchers, he said, adding: "The presence of the universities is foundational."

Jon Van Gerpen, head of the University of Idaho Department of Biological and Agricultural En-gineering, said a proposed project at Idaho Ethanol Processing involves developing the plant's capability to use cellulosic ethanol feedstocks from wood and non-edible plants.

The benefit would be "the opportunity to increase the range of Idaho-based feedstocks that can be used in ethanol plants so we don't have to haul corn from the Midwest," he said. Cellulosic inputs also have potential for high "energy yield" above the amount of energy required to produce ethanol from the feedstock, he said.

MacKenzie said Idaho Ethanol Processing is exploring cellulosic ethanol opportunities with another company that ultimately may bring resources to Idaho.

Idaho is a leader in bio-diesel but needs to grow its ethanol infrastructure and expertise, Idaho Office of Energy Resources Bio Energy Manager John Crockett said.

Simplot built the Caldwell ethanol plant in the mid-1980s, closed it in 2004, and leased it in 2006 to a unit of London-based ED&F Man, which re-started production last year after modifying it.

"This is a food-chain-friendly business that takes biomass waste and produces a valuable commodity," MacKenzie said. The operation is "non-food-to-fuel," he said.

Potato waste, piped directly from the J.R. Simplot plant, is the primary input. "But what makes this a unique project is that we'll take anything that has sugar and high starch," he said.

Other inputs include off-specification juice and wine not suitable for sale as is, molasses, and a type of syrup from beet production, MacKenzie said. The 17-employee plant also can process corn, though recent high prices and other factors warrant a case-by- case approach, he said.

Idaho Ethanol Processing sells ethanol to fuel companies. It produces "distiller's cake" and syrup both used in animal feeds.

Stinker Stores Inc. co-owner Charley Jones said Idaho Ethanol Processing in Caldwell and the larger Pacific Ethanol plant in Burley offer logistics advantages for receiving ethanol, which can be shipped from long distances.

Credit: Brad Carlson

(Copyright 2008 Dolan Media Newswires)

(c) 2008 Idaho Business Review, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.