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New research into new markets for corn

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory : 09 December, 2002  (Technical Article)
The National Corn Growers Association, Archer Daniels Midland and the Department of Energy
The aim of this research is to convert corn fiber to higher value products, thereby opening new markets for corn growers. Under the agreement, the partners intend to economically derive high-value chemicals and oils from lower value corn fiber. In doing so, they plan to demonstrate a sizeable leap in technology. The project will encompass purification and characterization of trace amounts of chemicals to designing and constructing a pilot plant capable of recovering high-value carbohydrates at a production level. The project is valued at $4.86 million, half funded by DOE and the remainder underwritten by NCGA and ADM.

The NCGA has long supported research targeting the increased utilization of corn fiber as a way to increase the overall value for corn.

According to Rene Shunk, project manager and NCGA director of research and business development, this partnership aligns with goals of NCGA’s research program, which is to support the continued development of the biobased products industry that uses corn as a chief feedstock. “The fiber utilization project could significantly reduce the volume of high-fiber feed products,” Shunk said, “and that in turn will help the entire ethanol and bioproducts industry. By creating more value for the fiber, the profitability of the ethanol process is improved.”

The anticipated rise in demand for ethanol will result in an oversupply of feed byproducts from corn processing plants. According to Charles Abbas, ADM’s project coordinator, “Processing of corn fiber from corn wet-mills to higher value products is essential to expanding corn wet-mills and to maintaining profitability of our industry. DOE’s support for this project as a part of the U.S. focus on biobased products from renewables is indispensable to the further expansion of corn biorefineries.”

“PNNL is extremely excited to be partners with ADM and NCGA in the development and implementation of this technology,” says Rick Orth, PNNL senior staff engineer. “To move this technology out of the lab and to pilot-scale in two years is significant.” PNNL is involved in process development and analytical efforts for separating and recovering the valuable chemicals from the corn fiber. Orth cited this as an excellent example of employing both applied and fundamental sciences.

The National Corn Growers Association mission is to create and increase opportunities for corn growers in a changing world and to enhance corn’s profitability and usage. NCGA represents more than 32,000 members, 25 affiliated state corn grower organizations and hundreds of thousands of growers who contribute to state checkoff programs.

Archer Daniels Midland Company is a world leader in agricultural processing. The company is one of the world’s largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa. ADM is also a leader in soy meal and oil, ethanol, high fructose corn syrup and flour. In addition, ADM is building a position in such value-added products as specialty food ingredients, bioproducts and nutraceuticals (such as Vitamin E and sterols). Headquartered in Decatur, Ill., ADM has more than 24,000 employees, more than 260 processing plants and net sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2002, of $23.5 billion. Additional information can be found on ADM’s Web site at
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