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Poet produces corn oil in South Dakota

Ethanol producer Poet is now producing corn oil, as well as ethanol at its refinery in Groton, South Dakota.

‘It is one more value-added product we can produce from a kernel of corn,’ says Kelly Kjelden, general manager. ‘Poet is always looking for the next step to add value, to be more efficient and to make the plant more viable and profitable. Being able to extract corn oil gives us another revenue stream.’

The reddish-colored oil is shipped by truck out of the plant and then by rail to refineries, which make biodiesel fuel.

It can also be sold as animal feed, but is not for human consumption, yet, Kjelden says.

Construction began in late December to install the extraction equipment, and production began in March.

‘It was a pretty short construction phase,’ Kjelden says. ‘It involved installing a separation system, piping and tanks.’

 The system is highly automated and did not require additional employees. The plant, which was built in 2003, processes about 17 million bushels of corn a year.

 While Poet does not release specific corn oil production numbers by plant, it has released companywide figures.

 About 235 million pounds of corn oil per year, enough for 31 million gallons of biodiesel, is made at 14 Poet plants. Poet has 27 ethanol production facilities in seven states.

 The Groton plant produces about 50 million gallons of ethanol a year.

Before the oil extraction system was installed, the oil was a component DDGS. The Groton plant produces both wet distillers grain, which is purchased by local livestock producers, and dried distillers grain, which is marketed worldwide under the Dakota Gold label.

‘The oil is worth more by itself than it is in the distillers grain,’ Kjelden says. ‘DDGS sells for about $160 a tonne. The oil sells for about $960 a tonne.

Kjelden says the value of DDGS does not drop significantly when the oil is extracted. It is still a high-quality, high-protein animal feed.

 Poet's patented BPX cold starch conversion process reduces the amount of free fatty acids in the oil, which is valued by biodiesel producers, Kjelden says

 The BPX system was installed in 2005. Previously, the plant had to use heat in the fermentation process to produce ethanol.

 Extracting corn oil gives the plant another product making it more versatile.