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02/08/2013

Biofuels Digest's 2012 Industrial Symbiosis Award: Green Plains Renewable Energy, BioProcess Algae

Article by Jim Lane - Dec. 31, 2012 In the Digest’s Biorefinery Project of the Future series we wrote about why corn ethanol plants were great places to begin developing an advanced biofuels. We noted that “existing first-generation fermentation biofuels require no re-invention of feedstock systems, no exotic first-of-kind processing technology, no fuel certification or from-scratch market development. They are financeable.” This past summer, that vision has taken a major series of steps forward as the BioProcess Algae project advances from a small pilot system to a 5-acre demonstration including all components systems that lead from CO2 capture through algae growth, harvest, and extraction. Three things are especially notable about the project. First, it has proven that it can successfully utilize excess CO2 and process heat from the Shenandoah ethanol plant to produce microalgae. Second, it has proven (at pilot scale) that its unique growth media can work – and this is an important breakthrough, because the company is growing microalgae out of solution, using a biofilm. “Third, Green Plains is still supporting the project. Even in the “a penny really matters” world of corn ethanol, GPRE is well-known for a relentless focus on viability and profitability. When projects don’t meet GPRE’s tough success criteria, they are shut down. Well, this one is not shut down.