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UND, NDSU research bill fails in the House

Jamestown plant may use barley for fish food, ethanol

SPIRITWOOD, N.D. —The North Dakota Industrial Commission has approved a $83,810 grant to Midwest AgEnergy Group to research using North Dakota barley to produce a protein concentrate for aquaculture and also for ethanol at Dakota Spirit AgEnergy in Spiritwood, just east of Jamestown.

It would be the first ethanol in North Dakota produced from a feedstock other than corn, said the commission.

The proposed project would also include an expansion of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant at Spiritwood that would add the fish food to the products produced there, according to Jeff Zueger, CEO of Midwest AgEnergy, the parent company of DSA.

"We're looking to move ahead with a more formal study on a barley protein concentrate project," he said. "If built, it would be a co-located process at DSA that would dehull and mill barley to produce high protein feed and a feedstock for the ethanol process."

Preliminary cost estimates place the project at about $20 million. That number will be refined as the study is complete.

The project would purchase up to 5 million bushels of barley each year. A process separates the barley into protein and carbohydrates. The protein will be processed into a high-value fish food with a target market of commercial salmon and trout farms, Zueger said.

The carbohydrates would be processed along with the corn currently processed at DSA into ethanol. If built, the barley protein concentration project would not reduce the amount of corn DSA will purchase but would process the barley into 20,000 tons of protein concentrate feed and an additional 7.5 million gallons of ethanol, Zueger said.

The project will use a different type of barley than is commonly used for malting. It would not have competed for barley with the Cargill Malt plant that announced it was closing in March, Zueger said.

"We're looking at a higher protein barley than malting," he said. "We can process two-row or six-row barley and prefer higher protein and plumpness."

Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown-Stutsman Development Corp., said the new process could increase the barley acres grown in the area.

"They will encourage barley growers," she said. "It's another thing to work into the rotation. It also harvests in July so farmers won't have to do so much in the field late in the year."

Zueger anticipates the first phase of the study to take about six weeks. The study will include project engineering and information on the available amount barley in the local markets. A second phase may be needed to refine the information or the project might move to a design.

The studies will also utilize information from an existing plant in Montana that utilizes a similar process.

"If all goes well, we build in 2019," he said.

The construction project would be about 20 percent the scale of the original DSA construction project. No estimates are available as to the number of workers that would be required for the operation of the project.