Plant Retrofit Fund is a Booster For Cellulosic Ethanol

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As the expected environmental benefits of biofuel made from food crops such as corn, rapeseed and wheat have not materialized, the race is on to find a competitive second generation of biofuels whose raw material is wood, grasses and non-edible parts of plants, which do not compete with food crops and forest coverage.

Brazil, a world leader in sugar cane ethanol, has been investing in cellulosic ethanol research, focusing on bagasse, the residue of sugar cane.

More research is also taking place in the U.S. A couple of weeks ago Logos Technologies and EdeniQ announced they had received approval from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), via the department’s Biorefinery Program, to fully fund their $20.5 million Corn-to-Cellulosic Migration (CCM) pilot at EdeniQ’s headquarters in Visalia, California.

EdeniQ was founded in 2008 and, besides its 36 employees in the U.S, it has four employees in Brazil as well.

The companies were selected for the funding back in December 2009. The objective of the CCM Project is to focus the migration of billions of dollars of capital deployed in today’s corn ethanol industry toward cost-effective production of greener ethanol from corn stover, switchgrass, and woodchips.

“This project is part of the ongoing effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, spur the creation of the domestic biorefining industry, and provide new clean-tech jobs throughout the country,” said the DOE project officer, Gene Petersen. He added that funds for the 3.5 year project sustains 43 positions over its life cycle, with most of them located in California.

DOE released the first $2.8m to cover federal cost share for the initial “Budget Period 1″ portion of the cooperative agreement in April 2010. The release of the remaining $17.7m means that Logos and EdeniQ have satisfied all of the conditions associated with the design and engineering of the retrofit to EdeniQ’s currently operating pilot plant.

The funds will now be used to complete the engineering and construction of the additional equipment used to retrofit the plant and to fund the ongoing development of the second-generation enzymes and yeasts for saccharification and fermentation. The retrofit is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011. After plant start-up, the biorefinery will process 2 tons of cellulosic biomass per day.

“Of the many projects we have been involved in during our past many years of working with the U.S. federal government, this technology is one of the most exciting, as it provides a clear roadmap for companies to become next-generation fuel producers with very low capital costs and rapid returns on investments”, said Logos Technologies CEO Greg Poe.

EdeniQ CEO Brian Thome agrees:”The Corn-to-Cellulosic Migration technologies add tremendous value to our already robust corn ethanol industry by allowing them to incrementally add on cellulosic ethanol production and take a leadership role in this exploding biofuels market space”, he said.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, appearing courtesy Justmeans.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.