Ethanol is made from corn, right? Yes, but a group in Muscatine, Iowa has decided to make ethanol out of sugar!
The group is called Heartland Renewable Energy (HRE). It consists of eight members. Don and Del Lewis, Ken carpenter, Phil Allen and Whittaker of Muscatine; Teresa Goode of Letts; and Chris Bensen and Steve Foster of Illinois.
Why is Homeland Renewable Energy (HRE) using sugar instead of corn? The process of making ethanol from sugars and starches is different. The sugar-based feedstock can bypass a step that is needed in the starch-based ethanol.
The sugar-based products that Homeland Renewable Energy (HRE) plan to use, can go straight into the fermenter with minor processing.
The corn starch has to be enzymatically treated to break down the starch into simple sugars to make it suitable for fermentation.
The HRE plant will be built close to rail and barge access.
Homeland Renewable Energy ( HRE) plans to bring cane molasses by rail from Florida and beet molasses by barge from New Orleans.
Homeland Renewable Energy(HRE) plans to phase in locally grown sugar-based crops after the first year. Experimental plots will be grown next year to see how well some of Homeland Renewable Energy’s ( HRE) needed crops perform in Iowa’s climate.
Sugar beets don’t like too warm summers or too cold winters. Records show that temperatures from 1951-1980 have been too warm by June to grow the sugar beets.
Sorghum may turn out to be the chosen crop for local farmers. The weather is better suited to grow it. Homeland Renewable Energy (HRE) is looking for a hybrid sorghum that doesn’t produce grain.
In both the sugar and sorghum, they are looking at the stalk and leaves for harvest, not the end beet or sorghum.
HRE sees the sugar-based process creating three by-products. Yeast and beet pulp used for animal feed. And a source of potassium when applied to crops as a fertilizer.
HRE emphasizes that sugar-based ethanol production was a supplement, not a replacement, for starch-based processing.
Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production. HRE sees its new sugar-based ethanol plant as another part of the solution to the energy problem.
The demand for ethanol is seen as continuous. The future looks bright for HRE and other ethanol plants. With 15 billion gallons of fuel per year needed from renewable sources, HRE has a chance to be the first of many sugar-based ethanol plants in Iowa and the mid-west.