Vodkow manufacturer plans expansion into ethanol

An ethanol plant using dairy permeates is in the planning stage

Omid McDonald: The amount of permeates required for this single ethanol plant will use up the country’s surplus

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ST ISIDORE – Dairy Distillery, which manufactures its Vodkow alcohol products west of Ottawa, and soon in Abbotsford, B.C., is in the planning stages for building a Canadian ethanol plant.

This is less than a year and a half after successfully launching its milk-based alcohol drinks across Canada, and with a planned U.S. expansion in the next couple of years.

It plans to use the exact same ingredients (permeates) that come from the milk ultrafiltration process that manufactures the vodka, to manufacture ethanol.

“There is only three per cent difference in what we drink, and ethanol,” said Omid McDonald, founder and CEO of Dairy Distillery, speaking here at the Eastern Ontario Dairy Day.

The amount of permeates required for this single ethanol plant will use up the country’s surplus, that is now mainly going for animal feed, said McDonald.

Three billion litres of ethanol are used in Canada every year – 40 per cent imported from the U.S. – and 87 million litres of ethanol manufactured here, “will convert all of the excess lactose,” in the country, said McDonald.

The Greenfield plant manufactures 100 million litres from corn, he said.

McDonald noted how the vodka operation in eastern Ontario is using 30,000 litres of permeates a week, but just in Winchester alone, 140,000 litres per day are sent out for disposal.

“It’s not a great story, who wants to hear about waste?” said McDonald. The main market for this product is to dry it to send back to China for pig feed, “but when the pigs died in China, that market plummeted,” he said.

On the environmental front, “there is no new net carbon in the system,” if this dairy surplus goes to manufacturing ethanol, said McDonald. “It’s greener and has one half of the carbon footprint of corn ethanol.”

By 2022 these milk permeates will be eligible for national carbon credits, he said.

The potential ethanol plant, “needs to be profitable,” with transportation costs being a key factor in plant location, said McDonald.

This isn’t new technology for manufacturing ethanol, since it’s been done in New Zealand plants since the 1970s, said McDonald. It never caught on worldwide after oil prices fell, he said.

“We’re wanting the dairy community to be part of our company, as potential shareholders,” said McDonald. He promised “to share details of how” in March.