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Corn+Soybean Digest

Renessen To Test Higher-Value Ethanol Production System In New Pilot Plant

Renessen LLC, a biotechnology company, has announced plans for a pilot plant to test a unique technology system in which new biotech corn hybrids with increased energy and nutrient levels will be combined with a novel dry corn separation technique designed for ethanol facilities. The new system represents a step change in the agriculture and biofuels industries and has the potential to increase the profitability of corn growers, ethanol producers, and swine and poultry producers.

Renessen is a joint venture between Cargill and Monsanto, bringing together Monsanto's expertise in biotechnology and plant breeding with Cargill's capabilities in animal nutrition, grain processing and logistics. The pilot-scale facility, which will employ about 15 people, will be built at Cargill's Iowa BioProcessing Center campus in Eddyville, about 70 miles southeast of Des Moines.

"Given the rapid expansion of the domestic ethanol industry, there has been a concerted market push of late for new technologies that will enhance ethanol yields and improve co-product values," says Michael Stern, chief executive officer of Renessen. "Our process does both, and also will greatly reduce the need for natural gas to dry the non-fermentable material. This is a great opportunity for U.S. corn growers, livestock producers, and the biofuels industry as a whole."

The pilot plant will provide engineering data to help Renessen refine specifications for building a full-scale commercial plant and developing livestock feed markets. A limited number of bushels of corn will be contracted with Iowa farmers for the 2006 growing season to ensure a ready supply in time for the pilot plant's expected opening in January 2007.

By applying a novel processing technology with a high- nutrient corn specially adapted for the process, the system would allow a standard dry-grind ethanol plant to produce several products on site, including: Corn oil for food and biodiesel; a nutrient-rich feed ingredient for use in swine and poultry production; a more easily fermentable ethanol medium; and an enhanced form of distiller dried grains with solubles (DDGS), the standard cattle feed co-product of today's ethanol dry milling process.

The new production process is expected to be more profitable because the nutrient-rich feed ingredient, the corn oil, and the enhanced DDGS produced in this new process all have potentially greater value than today's traditional dry-grind ethanol co-products.

"We're thrilled at the potential this project presents for advancing renewable energy through innovative biotechnology," says Mary Lawyer, director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development. "It fits with two of our top goals for Iowa: making it more energy independent and one of the most competitive locations in the nation for bioscience operations."

Assuming successful testing of the process at the Eddyville pilot facility, Renessen plans to actively seek ethanol partners for commercialization of the technology.

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