The climate-friendly future of corn

Posted on 7 Apr 2023

The Belgian Alcogroup produces animal feed and ethanol, corn is their main raw material. Their main activity is the production of biofuels, but previously it was mainly alcohol, intended for industrial applications. "We are now both a protein producer for animal feed and an energy company," said CEO Charles-Albert Peers in an interview in weekly Trends.

Alcogroup in figures

Numbers often speak louder than words. Alcogroup's annual production of biofuels amounts to 1 billion liters. This production accounts for a 15 percent market share in Europe. Furthermore, the Alcogroup captures 400,000 tons of CO2 and its turnover in 2022 was 2 billion euros. Production sites are in the port of Ghent, Rotterdam, Spain and South Africa.

E10 gasoline

In the early years, the Alcogroup mainly produced alcohol for the beverage, chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors, now the focus is mainly on ethanol from feed corn as a biofuel. This additional activity was beneficial for the Alcogroup, as the company is now the second largest European producer, with a net profit in 2021 of no less than 100 million euros. Perhaps the most well-known application today is E10 gasoline, which already contains 10% ethanol.

In the future, an internal combustion engine may be able to run on 100% ethanol, something that is at odds with to European plans to electrify the entire vehicle fleet to meet climate goals. So on that front there is still quite a bit of uncertainty. The Alcogroup is also considering the possible production of efuels, a topic that the European Commission is currently examining.

Capturing biogenic carbon emissions

The Alcogroup also focuses on sustainable and climate-neutral ethanol production. "We can already produce ethanol that's 95% carbon neutral from feed corn, in the future it will be 100%," Peers said. "Furthermore, at our refineries in Ghent and Rotterdam, we capture a pack of the biogenic carbon emissions from the production process." The Alcogroup also has plans to start using less energy and to electrify its production processes. That electricity for this would come from offshore wind power.


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