Italy is soon to be the home of one of the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol biorefineries. Yesterday, Mossi & Ghisolfi Group (M&G) held a groundbreaking ceremony for a 13 million gallon per year plant located in northwestern Italy. The company believes its plant will be 10 times larger than the largest demonstration facilities in operation today and is scheduled to be fully operational in 2012. The technology will enable the facility to produce cellulosic ethanol from a variety of feedstocks. Novozymes will be supplying the enzymes for the plant. The plant will also use the lignin, a co-product as a result of the production process, to burn in an attached power plant. Any excess bioelectricity will be fed back to the grid.
“Laying the foundation for the world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant here in Crescentino is an important milestone for us and at the same time a new beginning,” says Vittorio Ghisolfi, President of the M&G Group. “This plant proves cellulosic bioethanol can be produced in a sustainable manner for the environment and for the industry. But research is not stopping here. We are assessing bio-based substitutes for a range of other petrochemical products and chemical intermediates.”
The cellulosic ethanol will be produced from a variety of biomass-based feedstocks including wheat straw, corn stover or other energy crops. In the production process, the biomass is first broken down into a pulp. At this point, enzymes are added turning the biomass cellulose into sugar. From there, the sugar is fermented into ethanol. Novozymes has been working with M&G for several years to refine the enzyme portion of the process.
“Today’s groundbreaking is fantastic news and signals the dawn of a new green era,” says Poul Ruben Andersen, Marketing Director Bioenergy at Novozymes. “With this state-of-the-art facility, M&G proves there is a cure for the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. Biofuel made from lignocellulosic biomass is no longer a distant pipe-dream. The technology is ready and plants will be built and run on commercial scale, offering a compelling alternative to conventional gasoline.”