California-based Aemetis is taking advantage of the new EPA approved grain sorghum along with biogas and combined heat/power pathway as part of the Renewable Fuels Standard as an advanced biofuel. The company says this ruling creates a “level playing field” for U.S. ethanol producers by providing the same RIN value that is received by Brazilian sugarcane ethanol producers selling biofuel to the U.S.
Aemetis owns several ethanol plants, one in Keyes, California, that will be able to take immediate advantage of using sorghum as the primary feedstock, said Aemitis Chairman and CEO Eric McAfee. “The high efficiency standards and extra capital investment applied during the retrofit of the facility is now paying off with a rapid transition to the production of Advanced Biofuels at the Keyes plant.”
After an extensive review process, the EPA found that grain sorghum requires significantly less water and less fertilizer than corn, and can grow on land that is not as suitable for growing food crops. Grain sorghum is also drought tolerant due to a waxy covering on its leaves, enabling water to be retained during times of high heat or a lack of water, while still growing to full yield and maturity when rains occur late in the growing season.
According to the company, its 60 mgy capacity Keyes ethanol plant was designed for highly efficient energy use, including natural gas boilers providing steam for process use and powering a steam turbine for process electricity. The existing design and operation of combined heat and power at the biorefinery enables the facility to quickly convert to the use of biogas without permitting delays or equipment installation. In addition, the Aemetis Keyes plant is located about 40 miles from the deep water Pacific port of Stockton, California.
In October of 2012, the company announced that is has imported and successfully processed sorghum from Argentina. The company says its close proximity of the Keyes plant to the Stockton port enables them to import grain sorghum at potentially a significant discount to the price of sorghum produced in the Midwest and delivered to California. However, the company is looking to develop production of grain sorghum in California for 2013 and later harvests.