Ebony and ivory: The BioProcess Algae Story - Biofuels Digest

By Jim Lane - Sept. 26, 2012

In Shenandoah, white biotechnology meets black carbon remediation, and algae production comes to the Corn Belt, as BioProcess Algae and Green Plains Renewable Energy aim for a "lowest-cost winner" in algae biofuels.

In Europe they call "white biotechnology" what is elsewhere known as "industrial biotechnology", or around the Corn belt as "the technology behind corn starch fermentation", or in Shenandoah, Iowa (to many) as "the place where Dad (or Mom) works" or "the ethanol plant we sell our corn too."

It's been a tough enough season in Iowa this year for growers, fighting a persistent and gut-wrenching drought, but on the whole they've had a prosperous decade thanks to corn starch fermentation and the ethanol boom. It's built a floor under corn prices and given growers in Page County a short delivery run. They've helped make, in turn, the 100 million gallon Green Plains Renewable Energy plant in Shenandoah the most efficient and profitable in the GPRE fleet.

But carbon dioxide emissions remain. In fact, large corn ethanol plants are considered "major emitters" under EPA rules because one-third of the corn kernel, by weight, is released as carbon dioxide during fermentation. About 19 pounds of it per bushel.

To the EPA, an emission. To Green Plains Renewable Energy, an opportunity. Why not capture the emissions, feed CO2 to algae, and turn a problem into a profit center?

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