Milestones Reached: Cellulosic Ethanol Is Arriving, with Commissioning under Way and More Than 100 MMgy under Construction.
by Susanne Retka Schill (Ethanol Producer Magazine) The next five years—the often scoffed mantra of cellulosic ethanol developers—is getting whittled down to the next year or two. A milestone was reached this year when Blue Sugars Corp. got the first cellulosic renewable identification number (RIN) issued by the U.S. EPA. Another notable event happened in June, when Ineos Bio began commissioning its plant in Florida. Construction continues on several plants, while other projects are closing in on financing and new ones continue to be announced. For example, Chemtex International Inc. announced a new 20 MMgy project in North Carolina, even as it is commissioning its first, similarly sized plant in Crescentino, Italy.
The Ethanol Producer Magazine fall plant map, mailed with this issue, shows 6.25 MMgy of cellulosic capacity in the U.S. and Canada at nine demonstration plants and more than 104 MMgy under construction, coming online next year and in 2014.
…Further south, a developer announced a 20 MMgy plant in Lenox, Ga., is under construction. A native of Australia, Scot Corbett, CEO of the World Ethanol Institute LLC, moved to the U.S. in 1993 to continue developing the paulownia tree as part of the World Paulownia Institute. While the company originally targeted its development of the fast-growing tree for forestry, he says it is now focusing on energy, both cellulosic ethanol and fuel pellets. The tree can be harvested on demand, and will regenerate from the stump annually, getting yields of 20 to 30 tons per acre per year. The company has a patent-pending process called CHIPS, or combined heat, ice, power and steam. The pretreatment is a continuous process using steam explosion and acid hydrolysis, followed by standard fermentation using another technology provider’s modified yeast.
…Its first cellulosic ethanol facility has been under construction in Hugoton, Kans., for a year. “The ferm tanks are up, the beer well is up, the distillation tower is up, the water treatment facility is done,” says Chris Standlee, executive vice president. “It’s looking like a plant now.” Abengoa has had staff on the ground at Hugoton for three years, he adds, getting feedstock contracts in place. The 25 MMgy plant will tap corn stover and switchgrass as feedstock. Even in a drought year like this one, Standlee says there will be plenty of biomass available. The company expects to require less than 15 percent of the available biomass from a 50-mile radius.
Ground has been broken at BlueFire Renewables Inc.’s 19 MMgy plant in Fulton, Miss., and some site work is ongoing, reports company spokesman Richard Klann. The bulk of construction activity is on hold, however, awaiting financing. “Our lender of record for a USDA loan guarantee was not approved,” he explains. “We’re trying a more traditional financing model.” BlueFire is in negotiations with China Huadian Engineering Co. READ MORE and MORE (Ethanol Producer Magazine Project updates on Poet LLC, Enerkem Inc., Fiberight Inc., Mascoma Corp., Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc., ZeaChem Inc. and American Process Inc.) and MORE (Orlando Business Journal/INEOS)