Research by North Dakota State University shows that energy beets can be grown successfully in different soils and conditions across North Dakota.

Yield Trials

Research shows that energy beets can be successful grown in a variety of soil conditions outside of the traditional production area of the Red River Valley. NDSU has conducted dryland and irrigated energy beet yield trials across North Dakota for several years with positive results for root yield, sugar content and overall sugar yield.

In 2012, NDSU is expanding the yield trials to include 14 test plots in 11 locations: Carrington, Hannaford/Dazey, Oakes, Turtle Lake, Williston, Langdon, Minot, Colgate, Litchville, Jamestown and Harvey. This continued research will help establish a multi-peril crop insurance program for energy beets and identify best management practices.

Economic Feasibility Study

In 2007, BBI completed an economic feasibility study for establishing an advanced biofuel facility in Muscatine, Iowa. NDSU adapted BBI’s numbers to regions in North Dakota and developed a simulation research study. The research finds that for a 20 million gallon a year facility, break-even price for energy beet ethanol is $1.52 per gallon. Beet payments to farmers are estimated to be $31.7 million ($42 per ton x 754,717 tons) and additional net farm income is estimated to be $13.9 million.

Storage Research

NDSU studied how to best extend the storage life of beet juice, and its research showed that juice can be stored for year-round processing at minimal cost. Extending the ethanol processing season will benefit the operation financially and give energy beet ethanol an advantage over other biofuels. Additional research is being done now on whole beet storage and how long juice can be stored without the loss of sugar.

Lifecycle Analysis

A lifecycle analysis estimates the aggregate quantity of greenhouse gas emissions across a fuel's lifecycle - from field to wheel. The three classes of biofuels - conventional, advanced and cellulosic - are differentiated based on potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions - 20%, 50% and 60% respectively. NDSU recently concluded a lifecycle analysis of energy beets. The research supports the classification of energy beets as an advanced biofuel by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the application is in process now. An advanced biofuel classification will have significant economic benefits.

Transportation Study

Since our feasibility study shows that energy beet feedstock costs account for more than 70% of total biofuel production costs, we must find a way to minimize total feedstock supply costs. One way to do this is to reduce transportation costs by locating processing plants near energy beet growers. In studying alternative energy beet supply networks, decisions need to be made on whether beets should be transported directly from each grower to a central storage and production facility where raw beets can be stored, processed into juice and transformed into biofuel, or via regional pre-processing centers where beets are juiced and stored. Then shipped to a facility for biofuel production.