Power plants: Ethanol plant captures waste heat from electric utility

Called the first of its kind, a new ethanol plant has been co-located and fully integrated with a coal-fired power plant to use waste heat for ethanol production. Headwaters Inc. and Great River Energy (GRE) began operation of the new Blue Flint Ethanol Plant in late February, launching a process that will convert 18 million bushels of corn into 50 million gallons of ethanol annually.

03/01/2007


Called the first of its kind, a new ethanol plant has been co-located and fully integrated with a coal-fired power plant to use waste heat for ethanol production. Headwaters Inc. and Great River Energy (GRE) began operation of the new Blue Flint Ethanol Plant in late February, launching a process that will convert 18 million bushels of corn into 50 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Process control

The Blue Flint Ethanol Plant will produce 50 million gallons of ethanol annually but has no boilers. It uses waste heat from an adjacent coal-fired power plant. North Dakota Governor John Hoeven gave it the state's 'Project of the Year' award. Source: Headwaters Inc.

While ethanol offers an alternative to fossil fuels, critics charge that its value is reduced by the amount of energy consumed in the production process. However, this new operation captures heat that would be dissipated into the atmosphere from the power plant condensers, and uses it for ethanol fermentation and distillation. This eliminates natural gas fired boilers, resulting in a plant that produces ethanol without consuming any additional fuel or creating any additional emissions.

The Blue Flint plant is co-located with Coal Creek Station, a GRE-operated plant near Underwood, ND. The synergistic relationship carries additional benefits in that the ethanol plant needs no boilers or their supporting infrastructure, maintenance, water treatment, and fuel costs.

The Blue Flint plant cost $100 million and required slightly more than one year to construct. Headwaters Inc. hopes this type of relationship will be repeated in other situations. “Our goal is to develop innovative ways to provide clean, efficient, and cost effective energy through domestic natural resources,” says Kirk Benson, CEO. “Blue Flint will accomplish this while setting an example for other power plants and industrial facilities.”

www.headwaters.com





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