New North Releases Cellulosic Feasibility Study

woodwasteNew North, Inc. has recently released Phase 2 of a study on the feasibility of cellulosic ethanol plant in Niagara, an area in Northeast Wisconsin. Phase 2 demonstrates the availability of feedstocks to the plant, primarily wood resources, should the plant be able to produce ethanol using a diversity of feedstocks. The news is positive as many local community members and companies have expressed interest in providing feedstocks to the plant.

Phase 1, which was released this past July, studied the surrounding biomass resources in order to determine if a cellulosic plant could be sited in the region. Both parts of the report were conducted by Resource Analytics. The study also notes the possibility of creating switchgrass supplier cooperatives in conjunction with the establishment of an ethanol plant over the coming years.

“As second generation biofuels emerge as a fuel source, the New North is well positioned to take advantage with the resources and infrastructure necessary to create them,” said Jerry Murphy, Executive Director of the New North, Inc. “This study has demonstrated that a cellulosic ethanol facility at the former Niagara paper mill site has a great deal of promise for potential investors.”

Advanta Believes in Sorghum for Ethanol

advantaAdvanta US believes sorghum will become the most versatile feedstock for ethanol production. As a global seed company that has a direction toward research, they have seen a stream of similarities and advantages verses other readily known ethanol production methods such corn, sugar and switchgrass.

According to a press release from Advanta US, “As the world leader in sorghum, including bioenergy sorghums, Advanta is intimately involved in developing the biofuels industry worldwide,” says John Oppelt, Advanta US Manager of Business Development.

“Although the starch-to-ethanol method of ethanol production using corn or grain sorghum has gained the lion’s share of agriculture’s attention to date, the sugar-to-ethanol and cellulosic ethanol methods hold the greatest advantage in conversion and green footprint. Advanta is building upon the advantages of sorghum and currently is marketing hybrids we’ve developed for biofuel and bioenergy conversion around the world. Sorghum is the only crop offering multiple pathways to ethanol.”

Advanta is a global seed company headquartered in India with offices in Argentina, Australia, India, Thailand and the U.S.

Cellulosic Biorefinery Begins Construction

zeachemZeaChem, Inc. has announced that they will work with Hazen Research, Inc. out of Golden, Colorado to construct a new cellulosic biorefinery.

According to their press release, ZeaChem is meeting its deployment milestones and moving forward to advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals production,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem. “We have a dedicated energy feedstock supplier, we have raised necessary capital, we have completed the initial design package and are finalizing the detailed engineering and design package. Initiating construction of this front-end fermentation unit operation demonstrates that ZeaChem is accelerating deployment of its unique hybrid biorefining technology.”

hazenThe front-end fermentation unit scales up production of the naturally occurring bacteria, called an acetogen, which ZeaChem uses in its fermentation process. Acetogens are highly robust and, unlike yeast, produce no carbon dioxide (CO2) during the fermentation process, allowing ZeaChem to realize a significant efficiency and yield advantage. ZeaChem has successfully produced acetogens at the lab scale for over 1,000 fermentation trials of sugars as well as hydrolyzate derived from cellulosic biomass. The facility will have capacity to produce 250,000 gallons of biofuel per year.

POET CEO Bullish on Cellulosic Ethanol

nafb poetCellulosic ethanol pioneers like Jeff Broin of POET are confident about the future of next generation fuels, even if the country fails to reach the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate of 100 million gallons of production next year.

“To be honest with you, that number was picked out of thin air, so the chance that we do or don’t make it is certainly a risk,” Broin said during an interview at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual meeting last week. “The industry is moving ahead as quickly as it can. But I think we will gain on that number in the future and I am very, very bullish about the future of cellulosic ethanol.”

POET is one of several companies on the front lines of developing cellulosic ethanol technology and feedstocks and Broin says the government has been helpful in getting some grants out to build initial plants. “Once we have the first couple plants, I believe the investment will come very quickly,” Broin said.

Broin remains bullish on corn ethanol as well as cellulosic, especially since the primary feedstock for POET’s pilot plant is corn cobs and stover. “We have plenty of grain this year, we’re going to have too much grain in the future, so we need to look at what we are going to do to turn that grain into energy and food.”

Listen to my interview with Jeff Broin from NAFB here.

Cellulosic Biofuels Summit Underway

banner_cellulosicbiofuels09The 4th Annual Cellulosic Feedstock Summit is being held this week in Washington, DC once again. All the craziness in the nation’s capitol a year ago around election day made them move the summit to Florida last year, but they’re back in the traditional location for the meeting this year.

The focus of the meeting this year is a series of development briefings from key companies in the cellulosic biofuels arena on four main topics – activities, feedstocks, technology and financing. Companies providing briefings include Iogen, Coskata, Novozymes, Qteros, Dupont Danisco, and more.

DOE Official: Algae and Biomass Future of Biofuels

DOEOil from algae and the biomass from the green microbes could be the future for advanced biofuels… that word from a top U.S. Department of Energy official.

Biomass Magazine reports that Valerie Reed of the U.S. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said at the Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy held this week in Honolulu, Hawaii the her agency will develop advanced biofuels faster than cellulosic ethanol:

“We learned a lot over the past 20 years, and we believe we can apply that to a faster deployment phase,” Reed said, adding that biomass-based liquid transportation fuels are going to be the only adequate displacements for jet fuel. “This is now becoming a priority fuel we need to consider, and that’s why we’re moving into the advanced biofuels arena,” she said.

Algae has the potential to fit in our advanced biofuels scenario and has been a topic of great attention over the past couple of years, Reed said. “Why is this important to us? It’s an extremely diverse feedstock that comes from several kingdoms—this broad scope of diversity is something that we’d like to tap into and capture.”

Reed highlighted the high productivity of algae and it’s massive presence in the ocean, pointing out that if each algal cell were lined end to end there would be enough algae to reach the moon and back 15 billion times. She also pointed out that a troublesome algal bloom near the Olympic Stadium in China yielded more than 3 million tons of biomass in a three-month period. “Their nightmare is our opportunity,” she said. “If we can harness that type of productivity, and do so in a sustainable fashion, we can look at this in a different scenario.”

The article goes on to say that a DOE study from a few years ago shows the U.S. has 1.3 billion tons of sustainably available biomass. And Reed believes about 60 billion tons of cellulosic ethanol could be produced from that … about one-third of what is anticipated that will be needed for transportation. She says that doesn’t even count for what algae could produce, possibly 100 percent of U.S. fuel needs.

Reed admits there are some barriers, but that’s where research would come in and help overcome those obstacles.

Ceres Awarded $5 Million Grant to Develop Energy Grasses

Ceres_SeedstorageCeres has been awarded $5 million dollars by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to continue its advanced trait development project designed to increase the biomass yields of several energy grasses, such as switchgrass, sorghum and miscanthus, by as much as 40 percent. At the same time, the use of inputs such as nitrogen fertilizers would be decreased. The grant is part of the program managed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) and the award recipients were based on the potential for high impact as well as scientific and technical merit.

Richard Flavell, Cere’s Chief Scientific Officer, said in a press statement earlier today, “Low-input traits developed through modern genetics can provide wide-reaching benefits to the energy and agricultural sectors as well as the environment — just the type of transformational impact energy officials are looking for.”

Ceres’ initial projections indicate that their traits alone could displace 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 58 million tons of coal over a 10 year period. In addition, taking into account cropping practices, the company also estimates that 1.2 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer could be eliminated. This is equal the the amount of average nitrogen needed for 24 million acres of cotton.

“At the heart of our ambitions for a full-scale bioenergy industry will be how well we utilize our land resources,” said Richard Hamilton, Chief Executive of Ceres.  “With greater use of technology, increased productivity will go hand-in-hand with greater sustainability.”

Biomass Baler From AGCO

AGCO Biomass One PassAGCO is one of the companies working on a prototype biomass harvest/transport system. At POET’s Project LIBERTY Field Day they demonstrated a pulled behind baler system to harvest corn cobs and stover.

Dean Morrell, Product Marketing Manager for Hay and Forage Harvesting, was on site and talked with me about their system. He says it’s a one pass system which utilizes combine technology and durable large square baler technology. He says the material doesn’t touch the ground and makes for a very clean bale product. They had to do some major customization on the equipment and they have two units out working in the field as part of the development process.

You can listen to my interview with Dean below.

POET Project LIBERTY Field Day Photo Album

Verenium Optimistic Despite Decline in Revenue

VereniumVerenium Corporation reports lower revenues so far this year, but lots of accomplishments.

According to the cellulosic ethanol company, total revenues for the nine months ended September 30 were $49.3 million compared to $49.9 million last year, with product revenues representing more than 55 percent of total revenues in all periods. Product revenues for the this year are $32.1 million, compared to $37.0 million for same period in 2008, representing a 13 percent decrease, “reflecting the impact of the current economic recession.”

Accomplishments for the company so far this year include, continued development of the demonstration and pilot plants in Jennings, LA; and forming Vercipia, a joint venture with BP for the commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Highlands County, Florida. Verenium has entered the due diligence phase of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program for the Florida plant.

President and CEO Carlos Riva says he is pleased with the progress the company has made. “I am particularly enthusiastic about the ongoing discussions with the DOE for a loan guarantee for our first commercial facility, as well as the significant improvements we made to our overall capital structure,” he said in a statement.

Cellulosic Biofuels Summit Fast Approaching

Dr. Kristina M. Johnson, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy

Dr. Kristina M. Johnson, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy

The 4th Annual Cellulosic Biofuels Summit will be held in Washington D.C. on November 16-19th. Attendees will represent the feedstock, industrial biotech, biofuel technology, plant developer, finance, and oil and transportation sectors. The main goal of the conference is to share information on the perspectives and progress in reaching commercial production of cellulosic biofuels.

There will be three forums:

  • *Forum 1: Finance & Investment, November 16th
  • *Forum 2: Cellulosic Biofuels, November 17-18th
  • *Forum 3: Feedstock Supply Chain, November 19th

The keynote speaker is Dr. Kristina M. Johnson, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

For more information, visit the conference website.