Sweetwater and Ace to Produce Cellulosic Ethanol

Cindy Zimmerman

A cellulosic sugar producer in New York has signed a deal with an ethanol plant in Wisconsin to begin commercial production of cellulosic ethanol.

Sweetwater Energy signed a long-term commercial agreement with Ace Ethanol to generate cellulosic ethanol at the ACE corn ethanol facility for up to 16 years.

sweetwaterAccording to Sweetwater officials, the company’s “patented, decentralized process will convert locally available cellulosic, non-food biomass, such as crop residues, energy crops, and woody biomass into highly fermentable sugar, which Ace will ferment into ethanol. The entire contract has a total potential value in excess of $100 million, and requires a minimal capital outlay by Ace Ethanol while stabilizing Ace’s feedstock cost over the life of the agreement.”

“Ace Ethanol has been bench testing Sweetwater’s cellulosic material for some time and we’re confident that this project will be commercially profitable,” says Neal Kemmet, President of Ace Ethanol. “With Sweetwater, we’ll move from 100% corn to a combination of corn starch and 7% cellulosic sugar as our feedstocks.”

“This is a very exciting time for the industry, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have aligned Sweetwater with Ace,” says Jack Baron, President and COO of Sweetwater. “Our patented, decentralized sugar-production model is designed to let us work in tandem with a refiner’s existing infrastructure, which fosters strong collaboration on both sides. Furthermore, our refined sugars can be used for biochemical or bioplastics production, giving Ace diversification options in the future. Ace is a progressive industry leader located near affordable biomass; they are financially successful and constantly incorporating proven new technologies to maintain their leadership position.”

Sweetwater also announced today that they have been issued a patent for the “manufacture and deployment of distributed pretreatment units designed for the extraction of sugars from any cellulosic feedstock for the production of ethanol.” Officials say the process allows Sweetwater to deploy its cellulosic sugar conversion facilities in a “hub and spoke” fashion, providing broad scale diversity for cellulosic ethanol production that takes full advantage of economic and capacity constraints surrounding cellulosic biomass. “This patent is a major breakthrough for the future of cellulosic ethanol,” says Arunas Chesonis, Chairman and CEO of Sweetwater. “The patent protects the first technology to support a viable economic model for scaling the conversion of cellulosic biomass into highly fermentable sugar and subsequently, ethanol. It will mean a great deal to the US corn ethanol industry, and the profitable future of biofuel production worldwide.”

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