Cellulosic Ethanol Demo Plant to Open in TN

DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE) and University of Tennessee/Genera Energy will hold a grand opening celebration later this month for one of the nation’s first cellulosic ethanol demo plants, located in Vonore, Tenn.

BredesenAmong the featured speakers at the grand opening on January 29 will be Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who helped with the groundbreaking for the plant in October 2008.

The facility is expected to begin producing fuel ethanol from both agricultural residue and bioenergy crops prior to the grand opening. The 74,000-square-foot facility has the capacity to produce 250,000 gallons of ethanol from corncobs and switchgrass and is preparing for commercial production by 2012.

Dyadic International’s Investors Win Big in ’09

According to an article in the Palm Beach Post, Dyadic International, based in Jupiter, Florida, made a huge comeback in 2009 when investors saw their stake increase by 1,253 percent during 2009. Dyadic was featured in the newspaper’s best and worst performers of 2009 for companies based in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties Florida. In the biofuels space, Dyadic is best known for its enzymes that are used to convert biomass to glucose.

Last year, the company announced a licensing agreement with Abengoa Bioenergy to sell its patented C1 Technology Platform for the large-scale production of enzymes for use in manufacturing biofuels. They also announced a multi-million licensing agreement with Codexis, Inc in November.

Dyadic Founder and CEO Mark Emalfarb. Photo from TCPalm.com.

Dyadic Founder and CEO Mark Emalfarb. Photo from TCPalm.com.

However, these recent successes did not come without hardship. As reported by the news media, in 2007 company founder, chief executive and largest shareholder, Mark Emalfarb, was forced out. Emalfarb once again took the company helm in 2008, although the outlook was much starker. During his absence, the stock price nearly dissapated and the shares were dropped from the American Stock Exhange and relegated to the Pink Sheets. But akin to the American success story, Emalfarb turned his company around with several big deals in 2009 and now they are poised as a leader going into 2010.

“With all the clouds lifted, people are seeing the sky very clearly — and it’s blue,” Emalfarb said in the Palm Beach Post. “Shareholders recognize the incredible, miraculous recovery we’ve made, and they’re rewarding us. We obviously are drinking our Kool-Aid.”

Cellulosic Ethanol Demo Plant for Georgia

valerorenewables_logoA Valero Energy Corporation subsidiary is joining forces with an Atlanta engineering firm to build a cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant in west central Georgia.

Sonny PerdueGeorgia Governor Sonny Perdue announced that the new plant is a partnership between Diamond Alternative Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Valero Energy Corporation, and American Process, Inc..

“Georgia is striving to be a world leader in biofuels,” said Governor Perdue. “Our plentiful supply of raw materials to manufacture biofuels enables private industry to develop alternative energy technologies and create jobs. By opening their biorefinery plant, Diamond Alternative Energy and API will further cement Georgia’s leadership position in the alternative energy industry.”

The plant is expected to open in the first quarter of 2010.

NREL Tests Sorghum for Cellulosic Ethanol

National Sorghum ProducersRepresentatives of the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) witnessed a pilot test of bioenergy sorghum at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) this week.

NSP collaborated with NREL to provide almost 100 different sorghum samples for testing, eventually choosing two for pilot testing. The resulting data shows that high biomass forage sorghum demonstrates great potential to fit into cellulosic ethanol conversion. Sorghum varieties have a wide range of basic sugars and structure which could ultimately meet the needs of multiple biofuel systems.

Colorado sorghum farmer Terry Swanson, Vice Chairman of the NSP Board of Directors, is pleased with the NREL research because of potential it holds for both the nation and sorghum producers. “Renewable energy will play a critical role in the future of our nation’s quest for energy independence, and the work NREL is doing will help the sorghum industry establish itself as a major contributor to that cause,” said Swanson.

The test this week showcased three years of bioenergy sorghum research that was made possible by a Department of Energy grant obtained through NSP’s efforts.

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.