Toward a cleaner,
more sustainable
fuel supply





Today’s ethanol and biodiesel are the only two alternative fuels widely available to consumers, and ADM is a leading producer of both.  Each fuel offers notable environmental benefits, including:

  • Positive energy balance:  For every unit of energy required to make corn ethanol, between 1.9 and 2.3 units of energy are generated, and this energy balance continues to improve with increases in corn yields per acre, reduced inputs, and reduced energy consumption during ethanol processing.  The ratio for biodiesel fuel made from soybeans is 1:4.5.  And sugarcane ethanol, which ADM also produces with a joint venture partner at a plant in Minas Gerais, Brazil, also has a positive energy balance.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions:  Academic studies continue to demonstrate that today’s corn ethanol emits less greenhouse gas over its entire lifecycle than gasoline does, and ADM is working to further improve ethanol’s environmental profile by collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy and leading academic authorities on two large-scale demonstrations of carbon-sequestration technology.  Sugarcane ethanol reduces greenhouse gases by more than 60% compared with conventional gasoline, according to industry estimates.  And biodiesel made from soybeans and other oilseeds also offers significantly lower greenhouse-gas emissions than conventional diesel fuel.
  • Water efficiency:  In 2008, the Argonne National Laboratory found that the average water-to-corn ethanol ratio at U.S. wet mills stood at about 3.9:1, down from the nearly 6:1 figure reported a decade earlier.  Water use at corn dry mills dropped about 50 percent during this period as well.   ADM has reduced water use at our wet mills by more than 35 percent since 2002.  And we expect that our new dry mills in Nebraska and Iowa – located adjacent to wet milling operations – will be able to produce a gallon of ethanol with far less water than similar facilities have used in the past.  Biodiesel refineries are typically even more sparing in their use of water, with an overall consumptive-water-use-to-fuel-production ratio of about 1:1.

Charting the future of renewable fuels
ADM continues to collaborate with corporations and academic institutions to pioneer a new generation of renewable, clean-burning transportation fuels or fuel components made from abundant but low-value resources such as crop residue, energy crops and wood chips. Efforts of this type will be essential to enabling the U.S. to reach its goal of having advanced and cellulosic biofuels constitute 21 billion gallons of the nation’s fuel supply by 2022.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded ADM a $24.8 million grant to develop and construct a facility to convert biomass into renewable fuel.  The ADM Advanced Biorefinery project will produce fuel ethanol and ethyl acrylate, a compound used to make plastics, adhesives, coatings and a range of other materials.  The technology used to break down the biomass will also be applicable in ADM’s ongoing efforts to commercialize biocrude, a renewable product that can be refined into drop-in transportation fuels at existing petroleum refineries.

The biocrude research and commercialization effort is the product of a 10-year joint development agreement collaboration between ADM and ConocoPhillips, which will leverage the existing assets of both companies with a view to producing a second-generation transportation fuel with a strong lifecycle-analysis profile.

As part of that effort, we have joined forces with Iowa State University to study the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of developing novel reactors to turn biomass into pyrolysis oil, which
can serve as heating oil in stationary applications, or be refined into transportation fuel.

In addition, ADM is working jointly with Deere & Company and Monsanto to determine the best methods for sustainably harvesting corn stover — the stalks, cobs and leaves of corn plants — for use in next-generation biofuels, in animal feed, and as a feedstock for producing steam and electricity in agricultural processing operations.

In our view, each of these initiatives may be instrumental in producing next-generation fuels that could be sustainably and cost-effectively produced on a commercial scale.

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