Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment and Minnesota Corn Growers announce jointly funded projects

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Todd Reubold, Institute on the Environment, (612) 624-6140
Mark Hamerlinck, MCR&PC, (952) 233-0333
Jeff Falk, University News Service, (612) 626-1720

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (5/17/2010) – The Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC) and the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), a signature program of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, recently announced the two organizations have agreed to cooperatively fund five research projects in 2010. All five projects are being conducted in whole or in part by the University of Minnesota.

“The MCGA – IREE funding partnership reflects the significant overlap of the goals of both organizations, said MCR&PC Chair Myron “Mickey” Peterson, a corn and soybean farmer from Renville County. “MCR&PC and IREE are both committed to rural development in Minnesota and to ensuring that our air, water and land remain healthy and productive,” Peterson said. “Both organizations also recognize the importance of increasing our national energy security, through development of home-grown, renewable bioenergy.”

“We’re pleased to partner with the MCGA to support these research projects,” said Richard “Dick” Hemmingsen, IREE director. “These efforts will advance our mission of promoting economic development; sustainable, healthy, and diverse ecosystems; and national energy security.” MCR&PC has committed over $500,000 to the projects, with IREE pledging nearly $140,000.

The following projects have been funded jointly by MCR&PC and IREE:

Adding value to ethanol production by-products through production of bio-char and bio-oil

United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service / University of Minnesota. The goal of this project is to capture more energy from the ethanol co-product – distillers’ grains – while at the same time producing a potential soil-improvement product called biochar. The potential long-term outcomes of this project are the development of pathways to produce on-farm energy using an ethanol co-product (distillers grains, usually used as a livestock feed), as well as to further decrease the carbon footprint of corn farming by returning more carbon to the field.

Densification of corn stover used for renewable fuel

University of Minnesota Morris. This project investigates and evaluates equipment that is best suited to prepare bulk corn stover (corn stalks and leaves) for the process of converting it to energy. Ultimately, the project is expected to provide information necessary to develop portable densification equipment for use near the point at which stover is collected in the fields. Currently, transportation costs of low-density stover makes the process of converting it to energy cost prohibitive.

Catalytic gasification of corn residues

University of Minnesota. This project investigates the “gasification” of corn stalks, leaves and cobs, as well as distillers grains, in order to produce transportation fuels, dimethyl ether and ammonia. This process could result in more versatile and less expensive approach to converting solid biomass into liquid transportation fuels.

Transforming corn from a commodity crop to a higher-energy multipurpose biofuel crop

University of Minnesota. Research on a new strain of high-oil corn is being conducted to better understand the genetics behind high-oil content and how to efficiently transfer this trait to high-yielding corn varieties. The study includes an economic analysis of the procedure which will help guide future research.

Ethanol fermentation CO2 utilization as a direct feedstock component for commercial algae production

American Algae, LLC. American Algae is developing a proprietary system to commercially produce algae on a large scale with a minimum physical footprint. Researchers hypothesize that an ethanol plant can be a complimentary host to this technology system. The project will collect raw carbon dioxide from an operating ethanol plant’s fermentation process and assess its utility as a critical nutrient in the growth of algae for biofuels production. The project will utilize the University of Minnesota’s extensive database and knowledge of algae strains for testing.