Plans were announced this week for a cellulosic ethanol demonstration and research plant to be built in Florida that will produce both fuel and other products from the refining process.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Buckeye Technologies and Myriant Technologies (formed by BioEnergy International) are partners in the project that will explore ways to harness byproducts from some of the most promising cellulosic ethanol techniques to make environmentally friendly versions of petroleum products.
The plant will be located at Buckeye’s facility in Perry, a small town near the armpit of the Florida peninsula, roughly halfway between Tallahassee and Gainesville. It will be built using a $20 million grant allocated by the Florida Legislature and groundbreaking is planned for this fall.
“We’re trying to break our dependence on petroleum. Fuel is a big part of that, but it’s not the only part,” said Lonnie Ingram, the UF distinguished professor of microbiology and cell science who led development of the technology. “Learning how to develop these valuable byproducts not only helps to make cellulosic ethanol more economically feasible, but it takes the environmental impact of cellulosic ethanol and extends it to new areas-like plastic water bottles that won’t take up space in a landfill for thousands of years.”
Feedstocks for the facility will include wood, sugarcane bagasse, and rice hulls. The plan is to use the genetically-modified bacteria developed by Dr. Ingram to convert the biomass into sugars, the first and most commercially challenging step in the production of cellulosic ethanol. The cellulosic by-products can then be used as feedstock for sustainable production of high-value chemicals.