Manufacturing News

Cracking the Corn for Ethanol

February 1, 2008
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+

While the recent Iowa caucuses brought some attention to ethanol and its use of corn, several news stories have focused on the reduced availability of corn and its effect on the global supply chain and the food industry. Some ethanol producers have, indeed, been using the entire corn kernel for ethanol but others, such as progressive food ingredient producers, see the value of using just part of the corn kernel to produce ethanol.

According to Bill Becker, CEO of LifeLine Foods (a cooperative of about 700 independent grain producers in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska), LifeLine’s dry fractionation process separates the parts of the corn kernel, based on application, unlike several plants employing older technology that simply uses the entire kernel for ethanol production. LifeLine, a food ingredient processor for more than six years, began operation of its St. Joseph, MO ethanol plant in October 2007.

“In this particular business model,” says Becker, “we’re trying to take into account the maximum utilization of the kernel. The hard endosperm [outer, darker yellow portion] is used for our food customers and accounts for about 50-55% of the kernel. The softer endosperm [softer starches], which used to be sold as a low-value product, is now converted to ethanol. We separate the bran [outer coating], and it is used for gasification to heat an environmentally friendly burner to create steam, which helps generate energy to run the plant and produce ethanol.” Becker has seen natural gas requirements shrink by 50% with this technology, and expects that in the future this model may be self-sustaining.

Becker says a bushel of corn produces from 2.65 to 2.8 gallons of ethanol. In addition, under current technology, an acre of corn will also produce about half the oil an acre of soybeans does. What is exciting to Becker is the research currently going on with LifeLine’s onsite partner, ICM (which owns a 49% share of LifeLine), and various seed production companies that shows new biotechnologies may increase corn oil output even more. Harvesting about half of the corn stalk at the time of grain harvest will provide a source of cellulosic ethanol, adding even more ethanol output per acre of corn.

Are we short on corn? Becker says the ethanol industry created a demand for about 900 million more bushels of corn last year, and agriculture responded by producing 3 billion more bushels. This is why the USDA is currently predicting a major increase in corn supplies and carryover to next year.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Plant of the Year 2014

Blue Diamond Growers was chosen as Food Engineering's 2014 Plant of the Year. The Sacramento-based company is the world’s largest producer of almonds and almond ingredients.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts


Tyson Foods made headlines announcing the company intends to acquire Hillshire Brands in a deal valued at $8.55 billion. Do you think the acquisition will be beneficial for meat and poultry processors?
View Results Poll Archive

Food Engineering

July 2014

2014 July

The July 2014 issue of Food Engineering features the 12th Annual Replacement Parts Survey. Also covered: OEE improvement steps and increased filtration cycle.

Table Of Contents Subscribe


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.


FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +