Pioneer Technology Converts Corn to Gas Alternative

Seed company, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc, is developing a technology to convert discarded corn into energy in an attempt to cut back on use of fossil fuels.

DES MOINES, Iowa, US, 2002-01-07 [] As part of a joint effort with Iowa State University and Carbon Energy Technology, Pioneer is testing a process to convert seed corn into gas, which can be burned to produce heat. “We hope to reduce our dependence on natural gas by burning seed that would otherwise be discarded,” said Greg Tingley. In a gasifier located at the Toledo production plant, Pioneer takes unsold seed that cannot be re-bagged for quality or age reasons, and converts it into gas that is burned to produce heat for drying seed corn. The small amount of ash, high in nutrients, is used as fertilizer to enrich the soil. Pioneer uses 750 billion Btu of natural gas to dry seed corn each fall, or enough natural gas to heat 8,000 homes. Pioneer and its parent company, DuPont, have set a goal to source 10 percent of energy needs from renewable energy by 2010. The discarded corn enters a chamber filled with aerated sand, where it is heated to 1,200 oF. Air is continually injected into the sand to create a liquid-like environment, in which the corn seed, cobs or other materials are broken down into gas, which is then burned to produce heat. The hot exhaust products flow through a series of three heat exchangers to heat cool air which, when warmed, will be used to dry seed corn during harvest. The company claims that environmentally the gasifier is one of the cleanest burning systems available. Pioneer, Carbon Energy Technology and Iowa State University collected information about the technology during the last harvest and results will used to consider how the system might be expanded during future harvests.

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