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Page added on October 30, 2007

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Food or fuel? New technology offers both

In the “food vs. fuel” debate about global crop usage, fuel may be winning.

Millions of bushels of corn are being diverted to ethanol production as gas-hungry countries scramble to offset the soaring cost of crude oil. As a result, grain and food prices are rising – a sign that quenching our thirst for fuel may spur hunger pangs along the way.
Chris Carl, founder and president of Toronto-based Bio-Extraction Inc. (BioExx), believes his company has a solution: A proprietary oil-extraction process that could hold the key to maintaining the balance between food and fuel needs.

Conventional oil-extraction methods for grains and other plants use petroleum-based solvents such as hexane and require high temperatures (up to 140 degrees) that denature the protein materials, rendering them unusable.

The BioExx process, however, produces both oils and proteins. The extracted oil – whether from corn, canola or soybeans – can be marketed for biofuels, while the protein can be sold as fish meal for the booming fish-farming market or as additives for animal feed.

The BioExx process uses a gaseous fluorocarbon iodine derivative as the extraction medium; a combination of pressure and low heat (about 20 degrees) is used to first extract the oil and then to physically separate out the proteins in liquid form.

“Because we use lower temperatures, we don’t ‘cook’ the proteins like an egg white would be cooked,” Mr. Carl says, meaning that the proteins are thus fit for further use. In additional to animal feed, extracted proteins can also be used in industrial applications such as paints and coatings.

BioExx says its process produces almost no waste or pollutants and consumes less energy than conventional methods, making it environmentally friendly as well. Even the spent plant biomass (such as stalks or leaves) can be sold for animal feed or other products, Mr. Carl says.

The Globe and Mail (Canada)

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