CONSTANTINE, Mich. (WSBT) — An ethanol plant coming to Constantine hopes to make car fuel from cow waste.
The technology uses a milk byproduct and ferments it into ethanol.
It’s the result of a partnership between Canadian-based “Dairy Distillery” and the Michigan Milk Producers Association.
The milk permeate produced at the MMPA Constantine facility is currently shipped off to make pig feed.
But soon, that same waste will be turned into millions of gallons of ethanol.
Cows aren’t just for milking or for making vodka in Dairy Distillery’s case.
When cheese, butter, yogurt, or milk is produced it leaves behind milk permeate.
That’s a sugar water mixture that can be fermented into ethanol.
“They’re the same thing. The same liquid. So, the stuff you’re putting in your car is pretty much the same stuff that is in your vodka or your hand sanitizer,” said Omid McDonald.
McDonald’s Vodkow brand got the attention of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, which produces 14-tons of waste annually.
It hopes to pipeline the by product from its Constantine facility to a kitty-corner property, where the ethanol plant will be built.
“When MMPA reached out to us, they were wondering if we can make vodka out of all of their milk permeate, and he said well, that would be $54 million of vodka so that might be a bit hard to sell,” said McDonald.
The project was awarded $2.5 million from the Michigan Strategic Fund.
More money is coming in from the Inflation Reduction Act and a tax break.
“It’s been done before so in the 70s and countries like New Zealand, they actually looked at this to turn it into ethanol for feeling their cars and because they were worried about running out of oil,” said McDonald.
McDonald is hoping the milk to ethanol model will spread across the US.
At this facility, it will reduce MMPA’s milk processing footprint by 5%.
“We see with innovation and technology. Like this, we can preserve the products that we’d love to eat and dairy and minimize its environmental footprint,” said McDonald.
The ethanol plant is scheduled to start production in early 2025.
The CEO of Dairy Distillery says the additional waste from ethanol production will also be turned into natural gas to power the apparatuses.