Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cellulosic ethanol commercialization

Cellulosic ethanol commercialization can contribute to a successful renewable fuels future. Companies such as Iogen, Broin, and Abengoa are all building refineries that can process biomass and turn it into ethanol, while companies such as Diversa, Novozymes, and Dyadic are producing enzymes and Butalco[58] is developing improved yeast strains, which could enable a cellulosic ethanol future. The shift from food crop feedstocks to waste residues and native grasses offers significant opportunities for a range of players, from farmers to biotechnology firms, and from project developers to investors.[59]

A biorefinery built to produce 1.4 million gallons of ethanol a year from cellulosic biomass has opened in Jennings, LA. Built by Verenium, based in Cambridge, MA, the plant makes ethanol from agricultural waste left over from processing sugarcane. [60] Gulf Ethanol Corporation [3] (GFET) announced in June 2008 that it has established an R&D facility dedicated to refining the design of its cellulosic feedstock preprocessor. Cellulosic feedstock is used to produce ethanol from non-food products.

The new facility will be focused on enhancing the system for commercial delivery as a solution for cellulosic feedstock processing in ethanol production. Equipment and feedstocks are being acquired to analyze the throughput capacity, energy requirements, and scalability of the system. This equipment can improve the efficiencies of cellulosic feedstock and provide ethanol producers with an alternative to corn. Initial experiences with components of the system lead the company to believe that the system will significantly improve process times and net ethanol yield from cellulosic feedstocks

An ethanol production plant, capable of producing fifty million gallons of ethanol per year, is projected to continuously require the equivalent of a truckload of sorghum every five minutes. Initial experiences with components of the system indicate that large quantities could be processed with cost effective energy consumption. The focus of the R&D facility will be to quantify the precise parameters of the systems operations and evaluate the engineering requirements to scale the unit to handle the quantities of feedstock that a commercially viable cellulosic ethanol.