Big data is a popular phrase used in everything from finance and IT, to agriculture and online retail. It refers to the huge amount of information that is harvested and analyzed to improve industrial processes or consumer experiences.

By understanding the data generated by ethanol plants, Novozymes helps ethanol producers get more from the corn and run a more efficient plant, for less. Laurie Duval, Senior Manager of Biofuel Technical Services at Novozymes explains.

Why is big data important for ethanol plants?

Ethanol plants produce large amounts of data across their processes every day. The data is critical for understanding and guiding their operation, and for troubleshooting and optimizing processes. In fermentation, for example, data is used to model how enzymes and yeast perform to make sugars and ethanol. It’s about improving yields so that ethanol producers get as much as they can from every kernel of corn.

Where does the data come from?

Data is gathered from process instruments: pumps, valves, control systems, the flow rates across the instruments. There’s lab data, as every plant has a lab that runs key tests on samples collected across the process. There’s data around maintenance schedules, which ensure you optimize exactly when to replace something. There’s accounting data where you track how much corn is ground in the plant and how much ethanol is produced.

How does Novozymes help ethanol producers use big data?

Our customers send data about their plant processes, outputs and operations to Novozymes’ Biofuel Technical Service. The team analyzes the information to solve production problems and help the plant realize the benefits of Novozymes’ solutions. If a change is made to a process, it can be difficult to see that in the day-to-day collection of data within a plant. But by doing statistical analysis, our scientists can determine whether the change improved the process or not.

Does Novozymes use big data to improve its own ethanol products? 

When Novozymes launches a new solution, we monitor how benefits of that product are proven in the data collected. That could be data about improved ethanol or corn oil yield, how a plant can load more corn solids into the process so they get more throughput, or chemical reduction through use of enzymes. We run product trials across many plant sites. We analyze that trial data and feed our conclusions back to R&D, which helps Novozymes make even better products going forward.

Learn more about Novozymes’ Bioenergy solutions

Read more about the biofuels industry on Think Bioenergy

Words: Devapriyo Das