Relying on renewables: raising fuel’s ethanol content

Kansas Ethanol, LLC is set to incorporate Syngenta’s Enogen corn into biofuel production this fall

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer
Better Farming

Syngenta and Kansas Ethanol, LLC recently signed a three-year marketing agreement to use Enogen corn enzyme technology at the biofuel plant. This deal will provide participating growers with a premium per Enogen bushel and will benefit local communities.

Syngenta researchers bred this corn hybrid specifically for plant traits that boost ethanol production, a February company release said. This hybrid is the first genetically modified corn of its kind.

Syngenta introduced Enogen corn into the American marketplace in 2011. Since then, the U.S. biofuel industry has used this grain to contribute to the production of about 7 billion gallons (31.78 billion litres) of ethanol, Chris Davison, the head of corporate affairs for Syngenta Canada Inc., said in an email statement to Better Farming.

“The main thing with Enogen corn is that (researchers) have genetically engineered it to have alpha amylase enzyme in the grain itself,” said Mike Chisam, the president and CEO of Kansas Ethanol.

“As the corn grows, it (produces) the alpha amylase enzyme that the ethanol plant requires to break down the incoming starch … in the grain.”

If they are using conventional corn, biofuel producers must add the enzyme during ethanol production.

“Right now, our enzyme suppliers are not located near our plant, so we have a substantial amount of money that is leaving our region and going somewhere else,” Chisam said.

Enogen “will help keep money in our area … not only money to the farmers but there will be an overall impact of that money being spent locally.”

Because of this enzyme, ethanol facilities can also drastically lower the viscosity of their corn mash, the release said. As a result, the corn has potential to reduce an ethanol facility’s energy consumption.

“The grain coming in at 8 to 10 per cent inclusion with our overall grind is more than enough alpha amylase enzyme to break down all of the starch that we are trying to process,” Chisam said.

“The enzyme reduces the viscosity of the ground grain slurry substantially, … which makes it easier to pump and mix in tanks. So, we have reduced labour and electrical charges. (The enzyme) also helps enhance heat transfer … and with energy conservation in the plant.”

unloading corn from semi
    BanksPhotos/E+ photo

The agreement between Syngenta and Kansas Ethanol provides “corn producers in the area (with) the opportunity to (enter) contracts to grow Enogen corn and supply the enzyme directly to the ethanol plant,” Chisam said.

“Entering into that agreement allows (producers) to receive whatever market prices are … and then they would receive a premium on top of that.”

Ethanol facility operators have paid producers over US$100 million (C$134.4 million) in Enogen premiums since Syngenta introduced the product, the release said. Farmers can earn premiums averaging US$0.40 per bushel (C$0.54 per bushel).

Kansas Ethanol is an 80-million-gallon (302.8-million-litre) ethanol plant in Lyons, Kansas. While Chisam is uncertain how many farmers will grow Enogen corn this year, he said 14,000 contracted acres would be ideal.

The ethanol plant will receive its first load of Enogen corn in the fall, the release said. BF

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