Officials say Delta BioRenewables, which is located in Memphis, Tenn., delivered a commercial-sized batch of sweet sorghum juice this month to the Commonwealth Agri-Energy plant in Hopkinsville, Ky. The machines that turn corn into ethanol at the plant were used to make ethanol from sweet sorghum.
Pete Nelson, co-founder of BioDimensions and business development director, told the Memphis Daily News (http://bit.ly/UetQfa) that the company is looking to use sorghum to supplement corn. He says sorghum is drought tolerant and would make a good rotation crop.
Commonwealth Agri-Energy general manager Mick Henderson says sweet sorghum could be used for about 5 percent of the company's annual ethanol production.
"The sugars in sweet sorghum were fermented in the same way as corn, without any significant changes to our process," he said. "We wanted to see the sweet sorghum juice in a full truckload lot, run our own analytical profile, and then introduce the juice in our fermentation system at full scale."
Officials say the test was important because it shows the raw material can be used across several platforms and for different uses. The juices change over time as they ferment.
"It's pretty perishable," Nelson said. "We are working on two ranges of customers. Some are the large industrial scale where we're integrating directly into their facility."
He said the sweet sorghum process borrows heavily from Florida's sugar cane industry in terms of infrastructure.
"It's really been growing down in Brazil where they already have a sugar cane industry and they've got billions of dollars of capital assets already invested in sugar cane," Nelson said. "They are adding sweet sorghum as an offseason crop using the same infrastructure."
Information from: The Memphis Daily News, http://www.memphisdailynews.com