Over 1200 guests learn more about ethanol during Ethyl-Palooza open house
The 1200 visitors attending United Wisconsin Grain Producers' (UWGP) Ethyl-Palooza open house event on Saturday (Oct. 20) learned it's not going against the grain to turn farm crops into motor fuels.
Ethanol is an alcohol fuel produced by fermenting converted starch from corn with yeast. Most ethanol is blended with unleaded gasoline and other fuel products.
In 2005 UWGP completed the construction of and began operating an ethanol facility that manufactures 59 million gallons of ethanol a year from just over 20 million bushels of corn.
The company also produces approximately 200,000 ton of distillers feed with much of it exported to other countries.
The purpose of this event was to bring together the community to provide them with the real truth about renewable energy.
Barb Bontrager, general manager of UWGP, says she and the farmers who own and operate the business believe the ethanol industry is truly a great American success story.
She said, "The purpose of the open house was to inform consumers they have an increasing amount of choices as to what fuel they can purchase for their vehicle and educate them on how to choose wisely."
Bontrager added, "There is both a lack of information and misinformation about ethanol that we need to combat. Ethanol is a renewable energy that reduces our dependency on foreign oil, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, reduces cost of fuel at the pump, revitalizes rural America, and creates quality jobs in rural communities. We cannot afford to lose this battle."
RURAL ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Pam Johnson, Floyd, IA, president of the National Corn Grower's Association, was on hand at the event.
She pointed out, "Ethanol producers are part of a manufacturing sector that adds substantial value to agricultural commodities in the U.S. and makes a significant contribution to the American economy."
Johnson stated that her community is about the size of Friesland where the UWGP plant is located and finding ways to add value to agricultural commodities creates jobs in these rural areas and generates income. She said a fringe benefit is reducing the nation's dependency on oil from unfriendly nations of the world.
She also mentioned that ethanol production uses only 3.2 percent of the world's grain supply, and saving the average American over a dollar a gallon at the pump in 2011, and 89 cents a gallon in 2010.
State Sen. Luther Olson pointed out that in the past Wisconsin shipped much of its corn production out of state for processing.
He comments, "The ethanol industry in Wisconsin has helped to keep that money here. I find it hard to understand why some of the urban legislators think it's better to send money out of state to buy oil when we can create jobs and income in Wisconsin by processing the corn grown here."
Other speakers throughout the day included State Rep. Keith Ripp, Ron Fagen, owner of the company that designed the system that is in place at UWGP, Brian Jennings of the American Coalition of Ethanol, Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO, and Kristy Moore, Renewable Fuels Association.
Glenn Bower, a University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty advisor in the mechanical engineering department was on hand with some students who helped design a race car that burns a combination of ethanol and bio-diesel.
During the plant tour, Carl Benck, director and current president of the UWDP board of directors, described the process used to create the ethanol, distillers grain and corn oil from corn delivered to the plant by farmers in a 75-mile radius of Friesland.
He stressed the importance of keeping up with technology and said the plant is continually updating its methods as new technology develops. That technology helps the company gain efficiencies, produce more product per bushel of corn, and preserve water.
Pointing to what looks like a smoke stack he says, "That isn't smoke coming out of that. It's steam like you would have coming off a kettle of corn cooking on the stove."
The majority of the distiller's grain is processed as a dry product that allows farmers to buy larger supplies that will store well on the farm. This dry product also ships well so much of it is sold to other states and as far away as Korea and Japan.
A small amount of distillers is left in the moist state and sold to local farmers.
The farmer-owned company employs 39 full-time staff. Since the plant runs round the clock, several employees are on duty weekends and on evening shifts.
While the plant is located along a railroad track and has a side rail that holds 25 rail cars, the company is currently shipping everything in and out via truck.
Distillers is marketed through the DeLong Company in southern Wisconsin. Ethanol is also marketed within a 200-mile radius so at this time the company finds it less expensive and more efficient to utilize trucks rather than rail.
Benck points out, "In this plant we get seven-tenths of a gallon of corn oil, 17.5 pounds of dry distiller's grain, and 2.5 gallons of ethanol from one 56-pound bushel of corn. We're always adding and improving things."