Less Energy, Less Water, More Ethanol... ...is the trend in American ethanol production. In recently released research from Dr. Steffen Mueller from the University of Illinois at Chicago, production of ethanol at the nation's dry mills has seen dramatic improvements in efficiencies. By way of background, dry mill ethanol production accounts for nearly 90% of all U.S. ethanol production. The process, predominantly fueled by natural gas, yields both ethanol as well as coproducts such as livestock feed and corn oil. Dr. Mueller's research covered 66% of the nations >150 dry mills and shows dramatic improvements in ethanol production efficiency since 2001. Among the key findings were:
- Thermal energy use was less than 26,000 BTU/gallon on average, a reduction of 28 percent compared to 2001 data
- Electricity use was reduced by 32 percent compared to 2001 data
- Ethanol yields per bushel processed improved 5.3 percent since 2001
- Total water use was 2.72 gallons per gallon of ethanol produced, down significantly from previous estimates
- Approximately 30 percent of all respondents produce corn oil in addition to livestock feed, known colloquially as distillers grains (in both dry and wet form).
- The average corn draw circle for respondents was 47.1 miles, demonstrating that a large portion of all corn used in ethanol production is sourced locally.
- Ethanol distribution from the facilities responding breaks down as follows: 25 percent by truck, 3 by ship or barge, and 72 percent by rail.