In the past five years, the renewable fuels sector has seen its share of support and criticism. However, as most farmers and innovators know, challenge leads to opportunity.
Today, the industry’s push to extract some of the oil from the grains used to make ethanol has led to further development of new products and a bright horizon for the ethanol plants working as biorefineries. In addition to the ethanol and distillers grains produced at these plants, one such product developed exclusively by POET is Voilà, a low free fatty acid (FFA) corn oil that serves the needs of both the industrial market and the animal feed market. Their proprietary corn oil extraction process offers a higher yield and consistent product.
“We have 26 plants online extracting oil now,” said Matt Reiners, POET Nutrition’s Director of Sales, Regulatory Affairs and Quality. “So we offer something no one else can, which is as big a component as anything. That’s supply assurance and consistent quality.”
As the corn oil industry continues to grow – according to the US Energy Information Administration, corn oil is now the second most common feedstock used for biodiesel – Voilà offers a two-for-one punch.
In utilizing corn for ethanol and for biodiesel, POET is ensuring a future for renewable fuels and continued research into these products. This development of corn oil is good news for the biodiesel industry, according to Dr. Jon Van Gerpen, head of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Idaho.
“We’ve really been constrained by not having enough oil, so having a significant new source become available that some other industry had not really staked their claim to was something that really got people in the biodiesel industry excited,” he said. “It was something that maybe they could get a significant share of and help the biodiesel industry grow.”
In addition to supplying the biodiesel market, Voilà’s use as a biobased lubricant is being studied. And there’s more to this diverse product than just industrial work.
Dr. Jerry Shurson, Professor of Swine Nutrition and Management at the University of Minnesota, has been researching distillers coproducts in swine diets since 1997. He and his team have examined the ways in which perixidized fats and oils (including corn oil and DDGS) affect pigs’ growth performance, health, and metabolism, and they’ve found promising – and sometimes unexpected – benefits in corn oil.
“Corn oil is a high calorie supplemental fat source in animal feeds and the amount that can be fed varies by age and animal. Its best application is in poultry diets as a supplemental fat source. We tend to limit the amount of DDGS in growing-finishing pig diets because the corn oil present reduces pork fat quality, but it could be an excellent addition to weaned pig diets and perhaps diets for lactating sows when supplemental fats or oils are warranted.”
Depending on the species and animal’s age, producers may mix Voilà into finished feed, like a “feed smoothie,” says Reiners, blended with all the ingredients an animal needs in its rations to meet its nutritional needs. Beef and dairy producers typically utilize the loose form while hogs and poultry producers might opt for a pellet version. Outside of its use as a caloric supplement, Voilà can also serve as a dust control agent during feeding.
As both Van Gerpen and Shurson’s teams continue to research corn oil, with new Voilà tests in the works, this product is one more way POET seeks to offer consumers more options. According to Shurson, consumers need to be aware of improvements and innovations in this burgeoning field.
“Our latest research results indicate that DDGS oil content is a poor predictor of energy value for swine and poultry. This relationship is a lot more complicated than what we initially thought,” he said. “In other words, just because some of the oil is removed prior to manufacturing DDGS doesn’t necessarily mean that the energy value is reduced - which is contrary to what we originally expected.”
As the market for ethanol’s coproducts, like Voilà and Dakota Gold, are more widely understood, producers utilizing these products will find greater advantages in the diversity and efficiency of local plants that do more than make just ethanol. Regardless of the product, at POET, one of those advantages is quality.
“The guys who buy from us every single month, or week or day, when they call us they know exactly what they’re going to get,” Reiners said. “We hold our plants and the plants hold themselves to a very high quality standard.”