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Redwood Falls Gazette
  • Highwater Ethanol is first biobutanol facility in the nation

  • Since its inception, High-water Ethanol in rural Lamberton has continued to look for new and innovative ways to improve what it offers to the region in terms of economic development and to improve the return for its investors....
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  • Since its inception, High-water Ethanol in rural Lamberton has continued to look for new and innovative ways to improve what it offers to the region in terms of economic development and to improve the return for its investors. “That is why we are here today,” said David Moldan, Highwater Ethanol board chair Wednesday afternoon during a ceremony to celebrate the latest project that has been accomplished at the facility. Through a partnership with Butamax™ Advanced Biofuels, which is a joint venture of DuPont and BP focused on the development of innovative biobutanol production technology, the facility has been retrofitted to incorporate the first phase of a cutting edge process that could lead to the production of biobutanol at the Redwood County site – making it the first in the nation producing the biofuel. According to Brian Kletscher, Highwater Ethanol CEO, the idea was actually brought to the ethanol company board by Butamax™ leadership in March 2011. An agreement was reached and ground was broken to add the new technology. 
    Construction, which was conducted by Ron Fagen, who actually built the Highwater Ethanol plant, of the facility was completed March 21. Five days later it was operating. What makes the process developed by Butamax™ unique is the extraction of oil from the corn prior to the process by which ethanol is made. Most ethanol facilities extract the oil at the end of the process, and, according to Paul Beckwith, Buta-max™ CEO, this process adds value to that oil. The oil can be used for a variety of things, Beckwith said, adding it can be fed to livestock or it can be used in making biodiesel. Highwater Ethanol had been discussing the idea of extracting oil from the dried distillers grains it was selling as a byproduct of the ethanol process, but, like other plants was looking at the back end of the process extraction. It is now the first plant in the world that is extracting the oil at the start of the process. Kletscher said the facility never had to shut down as the new equipment was added, and the plant continues to make ethanol at or very near capacity. As negotiations begin for the second phase of the process that would take the corn mash left over after the front-end oil extraction and make biobutanol, Beckwith said things are going to be approached slowly and methodically to ensure the process works successfully on a continued basis. Seventh District Congressman Collin Peterson, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting, talked about the future of biofuels, and said he feels confident biobutanol is going to enhance the biofuels industry. As a drop-in fuel, butanol can be added to gas, similar to ethanol, but at a higher rate, which is attractive for a nation that is working to end its dependence on foreign oil. Peterson said as vehicles become more fuel efficient there is less demand, as is evidenced in the reduction of consumption from 150 billion to 130 billion gallons annually. Finding the way to help maintain the viability of biofuels is the challenge, said Peterson, adding he is very confident in biobutanol. This (project) is a great thing for the community, the county and the state, said Peterson, adding the having the cutting edge technology being developed and tested in southwest Minnesota is a great thing. “We’re off to a great start,” said Kletscher, adding he is looking for that to continue.

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