One Illinois ethanol plant has come up with a way to help harsh winter driving conditions and also make extra profits from their ethanol byproducts.

Big River Resources ethanol plant opened in April of this year and currently produces more than 216 gallons of fuel every minute. The high level of fuel production also means a hefty load of byproducts. According to a report from WQAD News in Galva, Illinois, the company considered bio-diesel and D.D.G. (Distillers Dried Grain), a livestock feed, byproducts at one time. Now, however, they are co-products, giving farmers a chance to make a little more for their work.


If approved by the D.O.T., Big Rivers’ new ethanol byproduct could soon help to melt snow and ice during the upcoming winter season. Credit: NAFTC

In addition to the bio-diesel and D.D.G., Big River Resources also produces 30 to 25 tons of a salt-like product because of the way they treat the water used in manufacturing ethanol. Previously, the byproduct was sent away to landfills, but the company discovered that this white, grainy powder could actually be used as salt to help treat icy winter roads. Now they just have to wait for approval.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is currently analyzing the product and running tests on it to see if it is suitable for this use. If they decide that it can be used for this purpose, the Galva salt product could soon create a new wave of innovation in uses of ethanol byproducts.

Big River’s Gene Youngquist said “Remember, the salt we’re getting from this byproduct is part of the process of making ethanol, so looking down the road to the future there may be a lot more possibilities.”

In addition to Big River Resources’ success, the U.S. ethanol industry in general has bounced back from 2008 to see some of the best profit in months. This can be attributed to relatively high energy prices, the possibility of exports and a bumper corn crop this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon release its October crop product report, and traders are expecting a corn crop of nearly 13 billion bushels, which is almost a billion bushels more than last year.

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