Plant to Produce Synthetic Oil from Biomass

A new plant is in the works that will produce synthetic oil from biomass that can in turn be made into transportation fuel.

The process is called “fast pyrolysis” and two companies, Ensyn Technologies Inc. and Tolko Industries, have announced that they will build the world’s largest fast commercial pyrolysis plant in High Level, Alberta. When completed, the new plant will be capable of processing 400 bone dry tonnes of biomass per day into 85,000,000 litres (22.5 million U.S. gallons) of pyrolysis oil annually.

Canadian RFAGordon Quaiattini, president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association called the announcement a breakthrough in more ways than one. “It is a landmark partnership between the renewable fuels and forestry sectors. It highlights yet another commercial breakthrough for next generation technologies. And it marks the first and most impressive plant of its kind anywhere in the world,” said Quaiattini.

The announcement also brings together the bio-energy and forestry sectors in a new and exciting fashion with the formal partnership between Ensyn and Tolko. Increasingly, cellulosic and other advanced technologies present new value-added opportunities for the forestry sector leveraging waste wood and by-products.

New Yeast Strain For Cellulosic Ethanol Production

Purdue University scientists have improved a strain of yeast that can produce more biofuel from cellulosic plant material by fermenting all five types of the plant’s sugars.

purdueThe researchers used genes from a fungus to re-engineer a yeast strain developed at Purdue. The new yeast can ferment the sugar arabinose in addition to the other sugars found in plant material such as corn stalks, straw, switchgrass and other crop residues.

The addition of new genes to the yeast strain should increase the amount of ethanol that can be produced from cellulosic material. Arabinose makes up about 10 percent of the sugars contained in those plants.

In addition to creating this new arabinose-fermenting yeast, the scientists also were able to develop strains that are more resistant to acetic acid, which gets into yeast cells and slows the fermentation process, adding to the cost of ethanol production.

Brazil Invests in Next Generation Ethanol

The Brazilian Innovation Agency, FINEP (Research and Projects Financing), and Brazil’s National Development Bank have entered into a new partnership to promote bioethanol development, providing up to $540 million in financing to the country’s biofuels sector to promote innovation in the field of bioethanol.

The funding will be invested in technology projects over the next three to four years, which would advance the use of sugarcane bagasse and straw, to produce second generation ethanol and new products such as polymers, special oils and biodiesel. This is an initial step toward the development of an industrial complex for ethanol in Brazil, following a similar model to that of Brazil’s petrochemical industry. The goal is to double Brazil’s ethanol production capacity in the country without increasing the area necessary to plant sugarcane.

ZeaChem Breaks Ground on Biorefinery

ZeachemBiomass refinery developer ZeaChem broke ground last week in Boardman, Oregon for a 250,000 gallon-per-year facility that will eventually be used to turn wood and other feedstocks into cellulosic ethanol.

The plant will initially use ZeaChem’s technology to produce ethyl acetate, which the company says is a salable chemical intermediate and precursor to cellulosic ethanol. With a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the company is scheduled to begin production of cellulosic ethanol in 2011.

ZeaChem has contracted with GreenWood Resources (GWR), a Portland-based timberland investment manager, to obtain sustainable hybrid poplar tree feedstock from nearby farms. Because the technology is feedstock agnostic, ZeaChem will also process trials of herbaceous crops, agricultural residuals and other renewable biomass resources.

Novozymes and Ceres Partner on Biofuel Crops

Ceres sorghumMixing enzyme cocktails and customized biofuel crops to make cellulosic ethanol a reality is the goal of a new industry partnership.

Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. and enzyme provider Novozymes have announced a research collaboration to co-develop customized plant varieties and enzyme cocktails to improve the efficiency of converting biomass to fuel.

“According to the Billion Ton Study by the US Department of Energy, one third of the total sustainably collected biomass potential from agricultural resources can come from perennial crops”, said Cynthia Bryant, Global Biomass Business Development Manager of Novozymes.

Ceres and Novozymes will initially work to determine the best enzyme cocktails for the biorefining of Ceres’ commercial switchgrass seed products. The partners will also begin similar evaluations of sweet sorghum, and Ceres’ researchers plan to develop customized plant varieties that can be degraded more easily by Novozymes’ enzymes.

Cellulosic Ethanol in Finland

chempolisA biorefinery company based in Finland has opened a plant for processing non-food biomass into cellulosic ethanol in Oulu. The Chempolis facility was officially opened last week by the Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen.

“The third-generation biorefining technology that we have developed enables us to produce multiple products from agricultural residues using all the vegetable matter they contain, maximising the added value that we can offer. This is a definite plus in terms of both operating costs and the environment,” says Matti Sundberg, the Chairman of Chempolis’ Board of Directors.

Chempolis has invested some €20 million in its new biorefinery, which also functions as a development and marketing centre for testing customer-sourced raw materials and producing sample batches of bioethanol, biochemicals, and papermaking fibres. The plant is capable of processing 25,000 t/a of non-wood and non-food raw material.

Verenium Happy With First Quarter

VereniumDespite the fact that total revenues of $13.0 million were down $1.4 million compared to last year, Verenium Corporation executives were happy with the 2010 first quarter financial report released yesterday.

“I’m very pleased with the successful first quarter and start to 2010 Verenium had with both its biofuels and specialty enzymes business units,” said Carlos A. Riva, President and Chief Executive Officer of Verenium. “Of note, the $5.0 million in gross margin generated from enzyme sales for the quarter is a record for us and is an indication of the strength in that business.”

Product gross margin dollars increased to $5.0 million, compared to $4.8 million for the same period in the prior year, “due primarily to an increase in the royalty on Phyzyme profits received from Danisco, combined with an increase in sales of higher margin enzyme products.”

Verenium recently announced an additional $4.9 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to fund activities at the Company’s demonstration-scale facility in Jennings, Louisiana and extended the joint development program established in August 2008 with partner BP.

Plant Makes Fuel from Waste and Fiber

An Iowa corn ethanol plant has been converted to produce commercial cellulosic biofuels from fiber and municipal waste.

fiberightClean technology company Fiberight announced today that it has started “commenced production at the nation’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant using enzymatic conversion technology and industrial / municipal solid waste (MSW) as feedstock.” According to a company release, Fiberight converted a former first generation corn ethanol plant in Blairstown, Iowa to cellulosic biofuel production. Following a total $24 million investment, the facility will be scaled to final commercial production capacity of approximately 6 million gallons of biofuel per year in 2011.

fiberightFiberight provides a new paradigm for environmentally sustainable waste management by offering a strong economic solution for over 60% of the trash stream, by turning it into valuable biofuel as a commercially viable alternative to traditional landfill disposal or incineration. In addition to solving a major trash disposal problem, Fiberight’s biorefineries will fulfill the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandates under the National Renewable Fuel Standard program (known as RFS2) that provides statutory requirements for the incorporation of renewable biofuel, including cellulosic ethanol, as part of the nation’s transportation fuel. For 2011, the cellulosic standard has been set for 250 million gallons (mg) increasing to 16 billion gallons (bg) by 2022. Fiberight is well positioned to support this renewable biofuel goal as reaffirmed by the Obama Administration under 40 CFR part 80 this past February.

The Blairstown facility will use initial feedstock from paper pulp wastes from a paper plant in Cedar Rapids, IA followed by integration of other industrial wastes and processed MSW from Fiberight’s operations in Lawrenceville, VA. By mid-summer, operations are projected to begin use of MSW from the Benton County municipality and other Iowa landfills. At targeted full production, the Blairstown plant will be processing over 350 tons of wastes per day into valuable biofuel, at a cost of less than $1.65 per gallon.

More Funds for Verenium Demo Cellulosic Plant

VereniumVerenium Corporation has been awarded an additional $4.9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to fund ongoing activities at its demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Jennings, Louisiana.

“We are very pleased to receive this additional funding from the DOE, particularly given the critical work currently being performed at Jennings to optimize our cellulosic process,” said Carlos A. Riva, President and Chief Executive Officer at Verenium. “I believe this award demonstrates further the DOE’s support for our technology and commitment to developing a cellulosic ethanol supply industry.”

The funding is an extension of the grant previously awarded to Verenium in 2008 under a DOE program supporting the development of demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery plants. The company plans to use the additional funds to support on-going cellulosic technology and process optimization at the Louisiana facility.

POET Ups the Cellulosic Ethanol Ante

Jeff BroinThe largest ethanol producer in the world intends to be directly or indirectly responsible for the production of 3.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2022.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., POET CEO Jeff Broin said they have made enough progress on technology and feedstock development to break ground on their first cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa later this year. “By 2022, POET plans to be responsible for 3.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol production by adding the technology to our existing facilities, licensing our technology to other producers and finally, transferring our technology to other forms of biomass such as wheat straw, switchgrass and municipal waste,” Broin said. That volume would represent over 20 percent of the cellulosic ethanol mandated in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Specifically, one billion gallons of production capacity will come from adding the technology to POET’s existing network of 26 corn-based ethanol plants, while licensing that technology to other corn-based ethanol producers would add another 1.4 billion gallons of production capacity. Another 1.1 billion gallons of production capacity will come from a wide variety of other feedstocks from across the U.S, either produced by POET or through joint ventures and opportunities where POET Biomass provides logistics support to other producers.

POET submitted its application for a loan guarantee with the U.S. Department of Energy to build the Emmetsburg plant. “If we get that favorable ruling, we told the DOE that we will start construction by the end of this year, which puts us on track to start up the facility in early 2012,” said Broin.