Making Biofuel and High-Protein Animal Feed at the Same Time

Many people ask if Gevo’s sustainable biofuels are responsible for higher food prices. The answer is no, and there’s more to the story. Our renewable biofuel takes inedible, industrial corn—known as dent corn or No. 2 corn—that no one eats, and turns it into biofuel that does not introduce fossil carbon to the atmosphere. It’s sustainable fuel made from corn.

Biofuel production at Gevo does not use the entire kernel of inedible corn that is the primary feedstock for our isobutanol plant. The starch is what we use, and our process leaves us with the protein. The protein we capture—and there is a lot of it—is turned into animal feed, to the tune of about 10 pounds (around 5 kilograms) per gallon of isobutanol produced.

That’s a lot of animal feed. On a tonnage basis, we produce more animal feed than we do biofuel at our Luverne, Minnesota, facility.

We want to be in the business of producing next-generation biofuel, and our methods are grounded in the real world. Animal feed is not just a byproduct of our biofuel production, it’s a co-product. And producing it means we have something else to sell, helping to offset the costs of producing isobutanol.

Animal Feed and Protein

But there’s more to this, because we take the question of food vs. fuel very seriously. Anyone who cares about nutrition and worries about malnutrition, as we do, must care about protein, because it is protein that is most needed.

High-protein animal feed results in healthier livestock that produce better meat. In keeping with our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions there are other benefits:

  • Our animal feed is sold to farmers in the area around our Luverne, Minnesota, facility, so we don’t have to truck our feed long distances.
  • High-protein animal feed reduces methane emissions from livestock. Methane is a greenhouse gas that retains heat 80 times more than carbon dioxide.
  • Farmers who keep livestock as a complement to growing corn have a natural source of inexpensive fertilizer from manure that keeps the nutrients from the corn on the farm, without trucking in synthetic fertilizers.
  • Manure can be placed in digesters that use natural yeasts to break down the manure, releasing methane which can then be captured and used for energy as renewable natural gas—a methane biofuel.