Dairy byproduct-based ethanol plant announced by MMPA, Dairy Distillery

The first dairy-based ethanol plant in the U.S. will break ground later this year. 

The Michigan Milk Producers Association and Canadian Dairy Distillery are partnering to turn a dairy byproduct, milk permeate, into ethanol for the biofuels sector.

Dairy Distillery CEO Omid McDonald tells Brownfield he helped create a method to process the milk sugar into a carbon-neutral vodka that’s marketed as VodKow.

“Very early on in the project, I got to learn how there’s an imbalance in dairy where people are drinking less fluid milk and eating more cheese and yogurt, there’s a lot of lactose leftover and different byproducts,” he says.

MMPA’s Constantine plant in southwest Michigan produces 14,000 tonnes of the permeate from its ultra-filtering process annually which is currently being used as animal feed.

MMPA President and CEO Joe Diglio tells Brownfield the venture will help diversify their portfolio while furthering sustainability commitments.

“We know that costs are increasing while dairy prices today are decreasing,” he says.  “We’re conscious of our efforts to continue to do our part and trying to get as much out to the members to keep a sustainable milk price in an operation for them going forward.”

McDonald says the Inflation Reduction Act and innovation in the U.S. were deciding factors to start the ethanol plant.

The $41 million project is expected to offset the milk processing plant’s carbon footprint by five percent once operational and be completed in early 2025, producing more than two million gallons of ethanol.

The project also received $2.5 million in funding from the Michigan Strategic Fund and $100,000 value-added grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

McDonald says dairy-based ethanol plants are currently only operational in Ireland and New Zealand.

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