American Process Begins Cellulosic Testing in Georgia

American Process had a ribbon cutting ceremony today celebrating its first cellulosic ethanol production at its pilot plant in Thomaston, GA. The plant was designed to test its proprietary technology, AVAP, American Value Added Pulping. This process co-produces pulp and ethanol from wood in an integrated biorefinery application. The wood is also used to provide energy for the plant.

According to the company’s website, AVAP utilizes alcohol sulfite cooking liquor to fractionate softwood chips into three lignocellulosic components. The addition of alcohol speeds the pulping, but still preserves the cellulose strength. Volatile cooking chemicals are stripped and reused in the cooking process at a high recovery rate, and lignosulfonates are precipitated and burned to produce process energy. The remaining liquid fraction contains hydrolyzed hemicelluloses. The company estimates that this sugar rich solution, when fermented, will annually yield up to 22.6 million gallons of bioethanol from a mill producing 500 tpd of pulp. The company notes that the value of converted hemicelluloses is 4-5 times greater for society as ethanol than as presently burned.

According to Bob Belling, the VP of Business Development, the site will produce about 80k gals/yr of ethanol. At this time, it will not be blended or sold and the pilot plant is being used for research only. The project has also created about 20 jobs in Atlanta and Thomaston.

Butalco Set to Produce Cellulosic Ethanol

German-based Butalco has announced that it will begin producing biofuel from agricultural waste this summer using its proprietary new yeast technology. The pilot plant is located in Southern Germany and the company’s new microbial catalysts will enable up to a 30 percent increase in yields during cellulosic ethanol production.

As explained by the company, cellulosic biomass, like plant waste materials, contains different types of sugars like glucose (C6) and pentoses (C5). Traditionally, yeasts are used in bioethanol production as they can efficiently ferment glucose into ethanol, but they are unable to digest the C5 sugars. Companies such as Butalco are looking at enzymes to break the plant biomass into C5/C6 sugar mixtures.

Eckhard Boles, co-founder of Butalco, said in a press statement, “Our new technology now tells the yeast cells to also ferment the C5 waste sugars into ethanol which makes the production of cellulosic ethanol much more efficient and cheaper. Together with the new commercially viable enzymes launched last week by the enzyme companies Danisco and Novozymes, Butalco’s yeast technology will enable cellulosic ethanol as a competitive alternative to gasoline.”

The company will use Hohenheim University’s (Stuttgart, Germany) newly built pilot plant for the production of its first amounts of cellulosic ethanol. Last year, Butalco signed a research and development contract with the Institute of Fermentation Technology within the Department of Food Science and Biotechnology at Hohenheim University. The institute has been concerned with questions on the production of bioethanol for almost 30 years. The plant is able to convert both starch and lignocellulosic based raw materials into ethanol.

Ethanol Industry Rep Appointed to California Panel

CA ARBAt least one ethanol industry representative has been appointed to an expert work group attempting to assess the true carbon footprint of all fuel sources under the California’s proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

POET Senior Vice President of Science and Technology Mark Stowers has been appointed to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is one of 30 experts from around the world appointed to the group. The group has been charged with assisting the Board in “refining and improving the land use and indirect effect analysis of transportation fuels,” according to a CARB resolution. The group will come up with recommendations to present to CARB by Jan. 1, 2011. The group’s first meeting will be Feb. 26 in Sacramento.

“The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is an important piece of energy policy, too important to rely on theories or unproven models,” Stowers said. “As the lone representative for ethanol producers in the workgroup, I want to make sure than all carbon accounting is based on the wealth of facts and accumulated data regarding agriculture, energy and deforestation. I also want to ensure that all fuels, including oil and electricity, are held to the same accounting standards as biofuels so that the rule truly can lower carbon emissions.”

The group also includes Jesper Hedal Kløverpris of Novozymes, which produces enzymes to further the development of advanced biofuels, as well as a number of university and energy researchers – but Stowers is the only ethanol industry representative on the panel. Stowers has led efforts at POET to create new, efficient processes for producing grain-based ethanol that save energy, limit water use and improve ethanol yields. He also leads POET’s cellulosic ethanol effort, known as Project LIBERTY, which produces ethanol from corn cobs.

Mascoma Honored with Top Biofuels Award

Lux Research has recently released a new report, “Ranking Biofuel Startups on the Lux Innovation Grid, which analyzes a number of key criteria to indicate which companies are more likey to succeed as the market matures. One of the companies given top honors is Mascoma Corporation.

“We are proud to be considered a top biofuels company by Lux,” said William J. Brady, CEO of Mascoma. “This distinction validates our efforts to be a leader in the growing cellulosic ethanol industry. Coupled with this award, our strong financial backing and proven technology breakthroughs in Consolidated Bioprocessing emphasize that we are ahead of the pack on the road to commercialization.”

This is not the first award that Mascoma has received in the past few months. The company was ranked #10 in the Biofuels Digest’sHottest Companies in Bioenergy.”

The Lux Innovation Grid is used to predict which segments of the biofuels markets are poised to succeed based on selective criteria including revenue per employee, patents, performance metrics, production capacity, and other data.

Click here to get more information about the report.

Exciting Enzymes at Ethanol Conference

Three different companies announced the introduction of new enzymes for cellulosic ethanol production at this week’s National Ethanol Conference in Orlando.

Novozymes made the biggest splash with its Cellic® CTec2 for the production of biofuel from agricultural waste, but the other two are no less significant in the race towards commercialization of advanced biofuels.

VereniumVerenium Corporation‘s new introduction into the enzyme mix is called Xylathin, which is specifically designed to improve the economics of fuel ethanol production from cereal grains. According to the company, “Xylathin rapidly breaks down xylan, a compound found in cereal grains such as wheat, rye and barley and significantly reduces mash viscosity. This faster acting enzyme allows producers to shorten retention times and reduce enzyme dose. Xylathin also reduces grain water retention lowering grain drying energy requirements.”

GenencorAt the same time, Danisco’s Genencor introduced Accellerase® DUET, a step up from Accellerase® 1500. “Accellerase® DUET employs a whole broth formulation, which provides nutrients for fermentative organisms and lowers the chemical load introduced into our customers’ processes. Higher performance at lower dose will lead to significant improvements in enzyme cost in use for producers, which is critical to enable the cellulosic biofuels industry.”

Representatives from all three companies, as well as others in the field, made presentations at two different sessions during the National Ethanol Conference to talk about advanced biofuels technology and the path to commercialization. If you attended the conference, those presentations are now available on-line.

Cellulosic Breakthrough Announced at Ethanol Conference

2010 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

A major breakthrough in the development of cellulosic ethanol was announced at the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando Tuesday.

Novozymes launched the first commercially viable enzymes for production of biofuel from agricultural waste – Cellic® CTec2.

“We have been working on this for the past 10 years and promised our customers and the market to be ready by 2010,” says Novozymes’ CEO, Steen Riisgaard, who first started work on the project 30 years ago as a young researcher.

He says they are really focusing on using this new development on making ethanol from agricultural waste, such as wheat straw or corn cobs, to avoid the current controversy of indirect land use change. “Personally, I think energy crop are wonderful and should be part of our future, but I don’t want to see this beautiful development be blocked by people speculating about things,” he said.

Riisgaard gives lots of credit to the United States for moving toward renewable energy sources. “Other than Brazil, the US is certainly in the lead,” he said. “Corn based ethanol has paved the way in terms of establishing the infrastructure and it appears to us on the other side of the Atlantic to be a carefully orchestrated and well-executed plan.” But he stresses the importance of continued investment by both the public and private sectors to make cellulosic ethanol commercially viable.

Novozymes is in the process of contracting a plant in Blair, Nebraska to produce the enzymes. “It will be ready for production by the end of 2011 and will produce enzymes for both corn based and cellulosic ethanol,” he said.

Listen to or download my interview with Steen Riisgaard here:

Mansfield Oil Expands Ethanol Marketing

Mansfield Oil Company will be joining forces with Permeate Refining, an advanced biofuel producer that processes waste by-products. According to this three year partnership is in conjunction with C&N Companies to market ethanol.

“This is our first relationship with an advanced biofuel plant that produces fuel ethanol from non-food feedstock, which also meets the new categories defined in the RFS2 guidelines. We believe a growing number of plants will be developed that can produce increasing quantities of biofuels from the widely distributed range of non-food feedstock. These facilities will be required to meet advanced biofuels and low carbon fuel standards. We are excited about Permeate’s current production capabilities, as well as their plans to expand their technology to plants nationwide that leverage local access to a wide range of feedstock,” said Douglas Haugh, EVP of Mansfield Oil.

Randy Less, General Manager for Permeate Refining is pleased to be working with C&N and is secure tthat the group can find the the best customers their products.

Jon Bjornstad, who founded C&N added, “I’m excited about the technology approach proven by Permeate’s current production and believe that their success is a testament to the progress being made today by the ethanol industry to produce greater volumes of the advanced biofuels required under RFS2.”

POET to Announce Cellulosic Ethanol Plans

POET, the largest ethanol producer in the world, plans to announce plans of their process for Project LIBERTY, a 25-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. According to their press release, POET’s Senior Vice President of Science and Technology Mark Stowers will speak Thursday at the F.O. Licht’s 3rd Annual Developing and Commercialising Next Generation Biofuels conference in London detailing.

Project LIBERTY’s construction is scheduled to begin this year and will use corn cobs as feedstock. POET has operated a pilot cellulosic ethanol plant in Scotland, S.D. since November 2008. The location of this new plant will be alongside the Emmetsburg grain ethanol plant making a more efficient process.

A documentary of POET’s pilot cellulosic ethanol plant can be found by clicking here.

DF Cast: Ethanol, Biodiesel Industries Welcome RFS-2

It’s been a long time in the making, but the Environmental Protection Agency has finally released the new Renewable Fuels Standard … better known as RFS-2.

The standard requires that biofuels will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace and grow in production from last year’s 11.1 billion gallons to 36 billion by 2022, with 21 billion gallons to come from advanced biofuels. It’s expected to replace more than 328 million barrels of non-renewable petroleum a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than 138 million metric tons annually when fully implemented.

While admitting it might not be perfect, RFS-2 is being welcomed by representatives of the ethanol and biodiesel industries.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we’ll here from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, as well as Tom Buis with Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association‘s Matt Hartwig, and the National Biodiesel Board‘s Michael Frohlich.

They all have interesting takes on what the new standard will bring in the short and long terms, and you can here what they have to say here:

Obama Announces Steps to Boost Biofuels

It’s a busy day for the federal government. Here is what has happened today. The EPA has released its expanded rules for the Renewable Fuel Standard, The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) that would provide financing to increase the conversion of biomass to bioenergy, and the President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group released its first report – Growing America’s Fuel. The report was co-authored by co-chairs Secretaries Vilsack and Chu along with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and lays out the strategy to advance and bring to market sustainable biofuels.

“Advancing biomass and biofuel production holds the potential to create green jobs, which is one of the many ways the Obama Administration is working to rebuild and revitalize rural America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Facilities that produce renewable fuel from biomass have to be designed, built and operated. Additionally, BCAP will stimulate biomass production and that will benefit producers and provide the materials necessary to generate clean energy and reduce carbon pollution.”

Several industry organizations responded to the report today including the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and Growth Energy.

“We welcome this new vision focused on biofuels production targets, and we encourage equal if not greater attention on distribution and creating long-term, sustainable demand for today’s corn ethanol and the next generation of biofuels,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of ACE.  “Approving the pending E15 waiver request, requiring the production of more Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), and providing incentives for the installation of blender pumps to dispense mid level ethanol blends all need to occur if we are to ensure that both corn ethanol and the next generation of biofuels can make good on their promise to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Growth Energy CEO, Tom Buis agreed with Jenning’s statement and added, “Growth Energy commends President Obama for recognizing the value of grain ethanol and the need to move forward with cellulosic ethanol to help our nation meet the goal of producing 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022. The President understands the need for enhanced support for the existing ethanol industry and greater investment to create jobs, improve our environment and increase our national security.”