Following up on my previous post on cellulosic biofuel industry growth trends, Biomass Magazine has recently reported on two very encouraging developments:
- The ZeaChem demonstration-scale (0.25 Mgal/y) cellulosic ethanol production facility in Boardman, OR has started production and has received EPA approval to start generating cellulosic biofuel RINs. The plant is designed to use poplar and corn stover/cob feedstocks in a highly efficient conversion process based on chemical pretreament and fermentation of hemicellulose to acetic acid, which is in turn upgraded to ethanol using hydrogen produced via the gasification of the lignin fraction of the biomass; the company predicts an almost-unheard-of 135 gal EtOH/ton biomass yield!
- The Ineos Bio commercial-scale (8 Mgal/y) cellulosic ethanol production facility in Vero Beach, FL has started production, and is expected to reach full capacity by the end of the year. The facility is also based on a hybrid process in which biomass is gasified and the syngas fermented to ethanol by bacteria. The plant will run on a variety of flavors of waste biomass, including yard, agricultural, and municipal solid wastes.
This is exciting stuff! After years of hype, many insiders believe that the industry is finally starting to reach a critical mass. It’s also important to note that both of these projects are DoE-supported (as are the Abengoa and POET facilities currently under construction), and both are based on technologies very different from the standard pretreatment-yeast-fermentation-lignin-burning model, so there’s a very good chance that by year’s end we’ll have new examples of government investment in high-risk innovative renewable energy technology bearing fruit.