More Alcohol from Corn - More Al-Corn Clean Fuel

Twenty-two years ago, Al-Corn Clean Fuel opened up outside the small southern Minnesota farming community of Claremont (pop. 548).  In April 2018, this ethanol-from-corn ‘biorefinery’ completed an expansion from 50 million to 120 million gallons per year of fuel ethanol capacity. The plant’s annual throughput is now 47 million bushels of field corn, which has historically been sourced from a tight radius in southern Minnesota.

The 240% increase in capacity also dramatically increases Al-Corn’s co-product output of dried distillers grains livestock feed and corn oil. The plant will now churn out 311,000 tons of the high-protein feed and 26 million pounds of corn oil.

Those numbers alone are quite notable, but what's more is that Al-Corn was the first “zero liquid discharge” ethanol plant. Their process does not use a city sewer system or any ditches. All of Al-Corn’s process water is recycled, with the exception of what evaporates from its cooling towers. That results in impressively low water usage of just two gallons of water per gallon of ethanol produced (for reference, this is less than it takes to refine one gallon of gasoline). Like in many other industries today, technology is rapidly changing, resulting in more operational efficiencies. Al-Corn is no different; in fact, their energy use has decreased 35% compared to their early years. 

The uninitiated might just buzz by the collection of buildings, tanks and billowing steam poking out from a cornfield along State Highway 14 without realizing its significance, and most would be surprised to learn of the amount of business that comes out of this small place. Minnesotans will find the ethanol produced near Claremont in the E10, E15 and E85 with which they fuel their cars, and Al-Corn’s corn oil is used in biodiesel as well as in turkey feed. Dried distillers grains from Claremont go to feed turkeys and chickens as well as beef and dairy cattle. And a good share of the plant’s carbon dioxide has long been collected and used in the meat packing industry. But Minnesotans aren’t the only people to benefit. Customers in China use Al-Corn’s livestock feed and it has been exported to other far-flung locales including countries such as Columbia and Ireland.

While Al-Corn's products touch countless consumers, perhaps no export out of Claremont has made a bigger impression than their chief executive officer. The board at Al-Corn Clean Fuel has trusted one person to manage its operations from the beginning: Randy Doyal. Randy is an engaging spokesperson who has served for decades in statewide and national roles. Managing an industrial operation, overseeing its $146 million expansion, business travel, public speaking, media inquiries, and hosting trade delegations all have kept him busy. But Randy is never too busy to accommodate a high school class or university engineering students who want to know about biofuels. He is always ready to tout Al-Corn’s success in boosting its energy and water efficiencies.

Quick Numbers Overview
The Al-Corn Clean Fuel process converts a single 56-pound bushel of corn into the following:
2.88 gallons of ethanol;
15.43 pounds of high-protein livestock feed;
0.74 pounds corn oil; and
That’s not counting the beverage-grade carbon dioxide that is collected and sold (approximately 70,000 tons each year)!

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