State of the Advanced Ethanol Industry

Cindy Zimmerman

A panel of advanced ethanol company executives at the National Ethanol Conference was at the same time optimistic and sobering about the future of next generation biofuel production.

“We openly acknowledged the ‘elephant in the room’ and that is that some of the numbers that people were talking about are bigger than we can expect in the immediate term,” said Advanced Ethanol Council executive director Brooke Coleman. “We also acknowledged that while the RFS grows linearly and aggressively over time, the industry grows more like a hockey stick. It’s very slow at the beginning and then there’s an explosion at the end.”

Listen to or download an interview with Coleman here: Brooke Coleman Interview

Coleman (left) moderated the panel which included Chris Standlee, executive vice president of Abengoa Bioenergy; Jim Imbler, president and CEO of ZeaChem; and Bill Brady, president and CEO of Mascoma. Each outlined the progress their companies are making in advanced biofuels.

“Mascoma has a project in the upper peninsula of Michigan, based on hard wood, and it is a joint venture with Valero and we also have a timber company in the joint venture as well,” said Brady, noting that they are an example of how companies are teaming up with other industries to produce advanced ethanol.

During the conference, ZeaChem officially announced the reception of a USDA project grant to use the company’s Oregon demonstration facility to develop advanced biofuels beyond cellulosic ethanol, including bio-based jet, diesel and gasoline. “We announced earlier this year that the first phase of our demo plant was completed, it started up, we’ll be adding to that,” said Imbler. “So, we’re well on our way.”

Abengoa, an international company with a significant interest in starch-based ethanol, is developing a commercial scale cellulosic plant in southwest Kansas. “We started construction in September of last year,” said Standlee. “We will have a facility that will be producing in 2013. It’s very exciting to be in that position finally to be able to say Yes, there is a reality and we see a strong future for cellulose.”

All agreed that financing for advanced biofuels is critical and depends on consistent policy to encourage investment, so accelerated depreciation, the production tax credit and government loan guarantee programs are all important to maintain.

Listen to or download the panel discussion here: NEC Advanced Ethanol Panel

2012 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

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