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Our Facility

Who can receive a guided plant tour and what does it cost?
Tours can be reserved by contacting Claire Weinzierl, Communications and Outreach Specialist. For further information call (618) 659-6737 x260.
What is this pilot plant's role in the ethanol industry?
The facility bridges the gap between traditional research and commercial application. This validation aids in the adoption of new technology in commercial facilities. Our mission is to facilitate the commercialization of new technologies for producing fuel ethanol more effectively.
How many jobs do we provide? How many jobs does a typical ethanol plant provide?
The NCERC employs 16 full time employees and over twenty interns and student workers at any given time. A commercial ethanol plant will employ between 50-75 employees; often from the rural community in which they operate.
What types of services do we provide?
As the biobased industry develops in the 21st century, the NCERC is uniquely positioned to provide scale-up validation and commercial testing to move new products and technologies from laboratories to commercial reality. The Center and staff are available for toll or custom bio-processing on a laboratory or pilot plant scale, analytical services and method development consultation.
Why is this facility a good investment for America?
The NCERC is the only facility in the United States and the world to have under one roof: Analytical Laboratory, Fermentation Laboratory, Fermentation Suite, Pilot Plant and Workforce Training. This facility helps create jobs in rural America, increases the value of farmers' products, and lessens our dependence on foreign oil.
Where can I get more information about the ethanol industry?
Renewable Fuels Association
National Corn Growers Association
Renewable Industries Canada
Governor's Biofuels Coalition
American Coalition for Ethanol
Growth Energy
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Effect on Agriculture & Rural America

Why is corn the most logical renewable source?
Corn is affordable, abundant and sustainable, making is an ideal energy source. However, other types of biomass could produce ethanol such as sugar cane, corn stover, corn cobs, wood products, switchgrass, and many other dedicated energy crops.
Where are ethanol plants located?
There are over 200 ethanol production plants across the country. The ethanol industry alone creates over 160,000 jobs to the economy.
Will we run out of food if you convert our corn to ethanol?
NO. Corn used for ethanol production is from field corn, not the corn for human consumption. Additionally, the supply of corn is abundant and readily available to help our energy security and rural economy.
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Ethanol Production & Process

What is fuel ethanol?
Fuel ethanol is ethanol produced from renewable plant based feed stocks, such as corn.
What is the difference between dry mill and wet mill processing?
Corn dry grind is the most common type of ethanol production in the United States. In the dry grind process, the entire corn kernel is first ground into flour and the starch in the flour is converted to ethanol via fermentation. The other products are carbon dioxide (used in the carbonated beverage industry) and an animal feed called distillers dried grain with solubles.

Corn wet milling is the process of separating the corn kernel into starch, protein, germ and fiber in an aqueous medium prior to fermentation. The primary products of wet milling include starch and starch-derived products (e.g. high fructose corn syrup and ethanol), corn oil, corn gluten, and corn gluten.

How long does it take for corn to become ethanol?
Corn can be converted into ethanol in 3-5 days.
How much corn is needed to make ethanol?
For every one bushel of corn, approximately 2.8 gallons of ethanol is produced.
How is ethanol produced?
Ethanol is produced from starch. All agricultural crops and residues contain starch, which is a polymer of glucose, a six-carbon sugar. To produce ethanol from grain, the starch portion of the grain is exposed and mixed with water to form a mash. The mash is heated and enzymes are added to convert the starch into glucose.

The next phase, fermentation, involves the addition of yeast to convert the glucose to ethanol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation produces a mixture called "beer," which contains about 10-15 percent ethanol and 85 percent water. The "beer" is then boiled in a distillation column to separate the water, resulting in ethanol. Ethanol production from grain utilizes only the starch.

A variety of highly valued feed co-products, including gluten meal, gluten feed and dried distillers grains, are produced from the remaining protein, minerals, vitamins and fiber and are sold as high-value feed for livestock. In addition to grain, ethanol is also produced today from wood waste, cheese whey, waste sucrose, potato waste, brewery waste, and food and beverage wastes. Many ethanol producers capture carbon dioxide emissions for processing and use in beverages.

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Environmental Impact

Does it take more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the energy we get out of it?
No. This has been a common misconception of the ethanol industry, that it takes more energy to make ethanol than is available to the final consumer. Remember, ethanol is produced from plant matter, today dominated by corn, wheat, sorghum, etc.

Plants grow through the use of energy provided by the sun and are renewable resources. If 100 BTUs of energy is used to plant corn, harvest the crop, transport it, etc., 167 BTUs of energy is available in the fuel ethanol. Corn yields and processing technologies have improved significantly over the past 20 years and they continue to do so, making ethanol production less and less energy intensive.

How is ethanol better for the environment than petroleum?
The use of ethanol-blended fuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 12-19 percent. Ethanol reduces toxic emissions by 30 percent and exhaust VOC emissions by 12 percent.

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Ethanol, in my car?

How does ethanol affect mileage?
Typically, when 10 percent ethanol is blended to gasoline, ethanol has a positive effect on mileage due to it being a cleaner burning fuel.
What do the terms E-10, E-15 and E-85 mean?
E-10 refers to fuel that contains 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. E-15 refers to fuel that contains 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. E-85 refers to fuel that contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
Can my car run on ethanol now?
You can safely use gasoline in your vehicle that contains up to 15 percent ethanol and all car manufacturers in North America warrantee the use of E-15 gasoline. The ethanol-blended gasoline that is commonly sold throughout Canada and the United States contains 6-10 percent ethanol. In order to use fuel that has an ethanol content of more than 15 percent, a flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) is required.
Does ethanol damage my car engine?
NO. There are many myths surrounding the use of ethanol-blended fuels and the effect that they have on vehicle engines. In fact, you may find that your vehicle runs better on an ethanol-blended fuel as it will remove deposits and clean out the fuel lines in your vehicle.
What are flexible-fuel vehicles?
All three major car companies (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) manufacture flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs). These are vehicles that can run on either regular gasoline or E-85 fuel.

There is one fuel tank on a FFV, and the driver can fill-it-up as they would with a regular vehicle. An on-board computer monitors the fuel mixtures and automatically adjusts the spark timing and fuel flow to the engine. Since this happens automatically, there is no special action required by the driver. For more information on FFVs, please visit the website.

Where can I buy E-85 fuel now?
In the United States, there are well over a thousand E-85 filling stations, mainly across the mid-western states.

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Sources: Renewable Fuels Association (, Iogen Corporation (, National Corn Growers Association (

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