Bio-fuel production

Customer Case Story

Corn Plus located in Winnebago, MN was the first operational ethanol plant (built in 1994) in the state of Minnesota. They are known throughout the industry for their innovative nature and being the first to move forward with technological
advancements. With production of 45 million gallons (190 million liters) of ethanol annually, they are considered a medium but very efficient facility. As for most American ethanol plants, corn is used as the raw material.

Kevin Maslakow, Lab Manager of Corn Plus, first learned of the DA 7200 in April 2006 and found its capabilities very interesting. He decided to evaluate the instrument in his plant to enhance process monitoring capabilities. After an evaluation period of several months, Corn Plus invested in the DA7200 NIR Analyzer and continues to expand its capabilities. It is used extensively by lab personnel and process operators. Outside vendors even use it to determine if their products help Corn Plus’ process become more efficient.

The flexible sample handling of the DA 7200 allows Corn Plus to monitor the process at many stages; from incoming whole corn, mash, fermentation broths, Wet Cake, to DDGs. The primary products monitored are mash solids in the mix and saccharification tanks, syrup solids for the fluidized bed reactor, moisture of DDG for dryer operation and shipping weight, and solids in whole and thin stillages to monitor centrifuge performance. The DA 7200 is used to enhance HPLC capabilities and provide a quicker result on the fermentation broths for sugar profiles and ethanol content. Under development are calibrations for alcohol content in beer bottoms and starch and moisture levels in ground corn.

“In one word, consistency” indicates Kevin. “We have been able to dial-in various areas of our plant. This allows us to get our mix tank very consistent, which allows our other inputs to be applied consistently without waste, which allows us to have consistent fermentations with consistent beers going to distillation. Less time is spent adjusting and working with the dryers. Our source of steam is from burning syrup and is based on good and consistent solids in the syrup from the DA7200. In the past, some samples run in a moisture analyzer would take fifteen minutes or more - usually observed by an operator - like watching a pot boil. The preparation of the samples was always questioned as to the best way to prepare. Everyone had their own little way of doing that, meaning operator error. With the DA7200, everyone can’t help but to prepare the samples the same way. The repeatability of this instrument is excellent which gives us greater insight to our process.

Kevin Maslakow believes that the instrument has paid for itself at least once in the first 9 months after installation. “Just in the time an operator saves running samples and being available to do other things, is huge” notes Kevin. Being able to get immediate analysis results after process changes provides excellent feedback and is an important reason behind the improvement in consistency and ethanol output. “Perten has provided timely technical, service, and applications support throughout the ownership of the equipment” adds Kevin.