Fractionating distillers grains into higher value products is the wave of the future for the ethanol industry, according to Dr. Harold Tilstra, manager, ingredient merchandising technical support for Purina Animal Nutrition, LLC (Land O'Lakes, Inc.) Tilstra spoke at the Distillers Grains Technology Council's annual Distillers Grains Symposium May 19 in St. Louis.
The first trend in fractionation to burst on the scene was corn oil separation. Tilstra described oil removal as "the biggest change in distillers grains in the last decade," however, the technology has become so popular that most ethanol plants currently operating now remove oil by use of a centrifuge. The oil becomes an additional source of revenue for ethanol plants and is usually sold for biodiesel production or as an addition to some animal feeds, especially for poultry rations.
Tilstra described a variety of nutrient enhancements and concentration technologies that are being incorporated by the industry, including fiber digestion/removal. Fiber digestion involves converting fiber into sugars to achieve higher ethanol production or to provide extra energy for poultry, and possible swine rations. Fiber is removed from the corn fiber either before or after fermentation. However, fiber removal may change the nutrient profile of the resulting distillers grains, possibly even improving nutrient availability.
Protein concentration/separation is another new fractionation technology coming to the forefront -- one that can also add value to the resulting distillers grains.
Challenges facing the industry regarding new fractionated products include nutrient variation, overlap in commodity space, meeting existing product definitions, customer and nutritionist acceptance, and competition for storage space at feed mills.
Cheryl Anderson can be reached at Cheryl.firstname.lastname@example.org
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