Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

50 Gallon Ethanol Precursor Processor Development(ST10869-1)

Sweetwater Ethanol, LLC


Cellulosic ethanol production is limited by the high cost of transporting fluffy solid biomass feedstock to the plant. The capital cost for equipment is also five- to- six times higher than corn ethanol equipment. Sweetwater Ethanol, Inc. has developed a process to preprocess silage on-farm into a feedstock that could be sold to in-state corn ethanol plants. A high-protein animal feed is left on the farm.

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Project Description

Specific objectives included: 1) specify, procure, and build the unit; 2) optimize production parameters, including the effect of temperature on rates; 3) survey potential customers to evaluate the product and the animal feed byproduct for viability; and, 4) project costs at full-scale.


On-farm production of animal feed eliminates costly drying and saves in transportation costs. Commercialization could result in 63 direct jobs by year five, with indirect jobs resulting from manufacturing equipment, trucking, and additional ethanol capacity at corn ethanol plants. .

Project Results

A 50-gallon processing unit was designed, constructed, debugged, and tested. The process parameters were optimized. The unit extracts sugars from silage, creating a sugary “sweetwater” that achieves concentrations of approximately 24% sugar in water, which is comparable to the concentration of sugar found at a traditional corn ethanol facility. The sweetwater could therefore be sold to a corn ethanol facility for processing into ethanol. Results showed most of the sugar in the sweetwater was from the starch, not the cellulose. The remaining solid product was assessed for comparison to animal feed. Market research showed that it could be mixed with high-protein distiller’s dried grain solids.


Sweetwater Ethanol, LLC
6765 E River Rd
Rush, NY 14543

Principle Investigator

Jerry Horton

Universities Involved

Rochester Institute of Technology


Project Type:

Indigenous/Renewable Energy Resources

Technologies Types:

NYSERDA Contact Information

Judy Jarnefeld


R&D - Environment & Energy Res

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST10869-1

Last Updated: 1/16/2013