Iowa Ethanol Plants Consistently Gaining Efficiencies

As reported by the Iowa Farm Bureau, while political battles over the Renewable Fuel Stan­dard (RFS) continue to grab headlines, Iowa’s ethanol plants are quietly pushing ahead and becoming more and more efficient.

The incremental gains by Iowa ethanol plants have been consistent and have helped farmers and all of Iowa by creating additional jobs in rural areas and contributing to the local tax base, said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA).

Lincolnway Energy“It’s not like a grand slam that you hear a lot about. But it’s a lot of singles that add up and make a major difference,” Shaw said about the efficiency gains. “It’s really like putting up three new 100,000 plants a year, without adding any steel.”

Added to that, Shaw said, farmers are continually become more efficient at growing corn and corn stover that is used by ethanol plants to make fuel.

Those efficiency gains were documented earlier this year in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report on efficiency gains in the country’s ethanol industry. The ethanol industry, the USDA report said, “has made the transition from an energy sink, to a moderate net energy gain in the 1990s, to a substantial net energy gain in the present.”

The report, authored by Iowa State University economist Paul Gallagher and others, showed that the entire U.S. ethanol industry had steadily improved its efficiency since the mid-1990s. Now, an average ethanol plant produces more than twice the energy than it consumes.

But many Iowa plants, especially those in the western half of the state, are well above average. They have doubled that efficiency by producing four times the energy they consumed, the report found. These plants were at the top of the efficiency chart because they are close to ample corn supplies and livestock feeding operations, so it is efficient to market distillers grains for feed. The plants also have access to transportation infrastructure and end markets, especially along the I-35 and I-29 corridors.

To read the entire Iowa Farm Bureau story, please click here.

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