Recent innovations in corn ethanol production have resulted in increased yield per bushel and less energy needed for production, according to a new study.

The study, “2012 Corn Ethanol Emerging Plant Energy and Environmental Technologies,” found thermal energy use at a typical dry mill ethanol plant has fallen 9 percent since 2008, meaning the carbon footprint of corn ethanol continues to shrink.

The authors, Steffen Mueller of the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center, and John Kwik of Dominion Energy Services LLC, wrote in summary: “Our work includes an assessment of over 50 percent of operating dry grind corn ethanol plants. On average, 2012 dry grind plants produce ethanol at higher yields with lower energy inputs than 2008 corn ethanol.

“Furthermore, significantly more corn oil is separated at the plants now, which combined with the higher ethanol yields results in a slight reduction in DDG production and a negligible increase in electricity consumption.”

The table below summarizes the 2012 survey results and contrasts them with 2008 operating efficiencies:

* Yield — anhydrous/undenatured, gallon/bushel: 2.82 for 2012 corn ethanol and 2.78 for 2008 corn ethanol;

* Thermal Energy — Btu/gallon, LHV: 23,862 for 2012 corn ethanol and 26,206 for 2008 corn ethanol;

* Electricity Use — kWh/gallon: 0.75 for 2012 corn ethanol and 0.73 for 2008 corn ethanol;

* DDG Yield dry basis, including corn oil — pounds/bushel: 15.73 for 2012 corn ethanol and 15.81 for 2008 corn ethanol;

* Corn Oil Separated — pounds/bushel: 0.53 for 2012 corn ethanol and 0.11 for 2008 corn ethanol; and

* Water Use — gallon/gallon: 2.70 for 2012 corn ethanol and 2.72 for 2008 corn ethanol.

“Once again, the innovation and dedication of this industry is borne out in the science and data,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.

“Ethanol producers are constantly evolving, innovating and improving the production process. As a result, today’s ethanol industry is using less energy and water than ever before and greatly reducing GHG emissions associated with the corn ethanol lifecycle.

“Today’s ethanol producers are conscientious stewards of this country’s precious resources and this country’s energy future. The ethanol industry is a classic example of American ingenuity driving success.”

“This study provides critical data for reducing the overall carbon footprint for corn starch ethanol,” added Dave Loos, Illinois Corn Growers Association technology and business development director. “Of course, changing the legislated definition of cellulosic ethanol to include corn starch based ethanol is a primary goal of Illinois Corn.”

The study also summarizes several new technologies being adopted by ethanol producers and feedstock providers.

It was funded with Illinois corn checkoff monies, partnered with investments from the National Corn Growers Association and Monsanto. Additional support for the study was provided by the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the Nebraska Corn Board.