Biomass may power dryers at corn-fed ethanol plants

By Hope Deutscher
Kansas-based Midwest Process Solutions is marketing the concept of using cellulosic biomass to heat a corn-based ethanol plant's rotary drum dryer, provide steam to boilers or use steam to generate electricity.

"We have some collaborative relationships and ideas of how to use biomass to fuel the [distillers grains] dryer burner rather than using natural gas, and also how to use biomass for boilers to generate steam or use that steam to generate electricity," said David Corley, president of Midwest Process Solutions. "I wouldn't say its proprietary, but I'd say we've got the capabilities to put together the system to do this."

A typical rotary drum dryer requires 1,500 to 1,700 British thermal units per pound of water removal. Systems vary in cost depending on inputs and system design layout, but there are payback scenarios of one to three years when replacing conventional natural gas with solid fuel cyclonic burners, Corley said.

Midwest Process Solutions is currently involved in the construction of Show Me Energy Co-op in Centerview, Mo. The facility plans to take agricultural biomass from local producers and create fuel pellets to sell to a local utility company or the retail pellet-stove market. The agricultural biomass includes straw, seed hulls and corn stover. At full capacity, the plant will produce approximately 100,000 tons of fuel pellets annually.