What is in this article?:
- The cellulosic ethanol industry is close to real-world plants with commercial production volumes.
- The Renewable Fuel Standard is important for supporting advanced biofuel development.
- Major plants from DuPont and POET come on line in 2014.
Plants make progress
POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, for example, expects to begin producing cellulosic ethanol from corn stover early next year at its Project Liberty plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Adjacent to POET-DSM’s corn ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, the new facility will initially be able to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. It will eventually ramp up to 25 million gallons or more. By co-locating with the corn ethanol plant, the company can combine some operations and reduce costs. In addition, the cellulosic ethanol plant will generate steam and biogas that can be used by the corn ethanol facility.
The Project Liberty plant collected 75,000 tons of crop residue in 2012 from more than 100 growers primarily within a 35-mile radius of Emmetsburg, and is projected to collect 120,000 tons this year. POET-DSM expects to annually purchase about $20 million worth of corn stover for Project Liberty. Please see the accompanying sidebar for more on corn crop residue business models.
DuPont Industrial Biosciences is also expected to begin cellulosic ethanol production next year. Located next to the Lincolnway Energy corn ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, it will be capable of producing 30 million gallons of ethanol, requiring about 190,000 acres of corn stover collected from a 30-mile radius of the plant.
Abengoa Bioenergy aims to have its 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, KS, in operation by January 2014. The company, headquartered in Spain, chose Hugoton because of the diversity of crops produced in the area. It will begin using corn stover, but could also use wheat straw, grain sorghum and prairie grasses. In addition, Abengoa will be able to produce up to 20 megawatts of electricity from biomass.
These companies acknowledge that the existence of the RFS is important to continued investment in the cellulosic ethanol industry as a whole. The RFS also opens up market access. Prior to enactment of the RFS, ethanol had limited access to consumers, Growth Energy’s Buis pointed out.
But, these companies also have confidence in the economics of their technologies. POET-DSM and DuPont Industrial Biosciences, for example, plan to broadly license their technologies and expertise in the various facets of production, from biomass collection to the enzymes, equipment and processes used in biofuel production. Steve Hartig, general manager, licensing, POET-DSM, said, “If we didn’t believe in this, we wouldn’t be making this kind of investment.”