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Iowa ethanol plant to grow algae for feed and fuel

October 15, 2009

[Source: O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa]

A southwest Iowa ethanol plant is the home of a pilot project that involves growing algae for feed and fuel. The Green Plains Renewable Energy Plant in Shenandoah got a 2.1 million dollar state grant for the project. Carbon dioxide, water and waste products from the ethanol plant will be used to grow algae. Todd Becker, C.E.O. of Green Plains, says they’re in phase one of the project. “What we’re going to do is first, measure the amount of CO2 that we’re using to grow algae in the reactor so that we can then figure out what it’s going to look like on a scale up to a commercialization platform,” Becker says.

An algae cell uses sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to produce ethanol energy.

An algae cell uses sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to produce ethanol energy.

The harvested algae has many uses, according to Becker. For example, it can be fed to livestock.

“Hopefully we’ll reach a point where we can take all the CO2 of an ethanol plant, use it in the reactors, grow and harvest the algae which can then be used in downstream processing into fuel, feed or energy,” Becker says. Green Plains Renewable Energy is based in Omaha. The company has six ethanol plants in four states. Green Plains executives say they are the first company in the country to deploy the kind of technology being used in this algae-growing project.

Two of the six ethanol plants are located in Iowa, in Shenandoah and Superior.

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