Here are some of the recent capacity updates that the blog came across in the past week. We will start with LS9 which announced this week the successful start-up of its fatty alcohol production in the company’s 135,000 liter-scale demonstration facility in Okeechobee, Florida.
I am actually working on another post about oleochemical capacity updates this year, lots of news in Asia!
Going back to LS9, the company said the fatty alcohols produced will be for testing and product qualifications by key partners and prospective customers. One of the key customers here is consumer products major Procter & Gamble (P&G). Majority of fatty alcohols consumption worldwide is used to produce surfactants, a $5bn market with various applications most of which goes to cleaning products including detergents. Fatty alcohols itself is a $500m global market.
LS9 said their sugar-based fatty alcohols have an “excellent replication of technical metrics seen at pilot scale.” Traditional fatty alcohols are produced using lipid-based feedstock (animal fats/vegetable oils).
“We plan to perform additional fatty alcohol runs to demonstrate the robustness of our technology platform and then switch to diesel fuel and ester chemical production to further demonstrate the production optionality of the technology.” – Ed Dineen, president and CEO, LS9
Early this year at the Jefferies Global Clean Technology conference that I attended here in New York, LS9’s Dineen talked about looking for strategic round of funding this year to go to commercial scale-up by the end of 2014.
The Florida facility also has four (each at 700,000 liter) world-scale fermentation capability that could be started if commercialization opportunities exist, according to Dineen at that time. However, the Florida facility is mostly being envisioned as a demo and scale-up facility.
LS9 is looking to build a brownfield 10,000-25,000 tonnes/year facility initially in Brazil to produce sugarcane-based chemicals. During that time, Dineen said they’re looking at between $35m and $50m for funding. The company said it is also close to getting funding support from a Brazilian development bank.
Speaking of Brazil, Limagrain — a France-based agribusiness company, announced in late August that its biolice business is looking to build a biodegradable and compostable plastic granules made from corn flour in Pato Branco, Brazil, with a production capacity of 8,000 tonnes/year. The facility is expected to start within a year.
“Our aim for biolice is to become globally involved in biodegradable plastics. Like India and China, Brazil is a target country for the biolice biodegradable and compostable raw material. In these emerging countries, pollution problems are extremely pressing. The huge scale of growth of plastics in Brazil with, for example, more than 17 billion bags being used, is a considerable source of waste.” – Limagrain
Also in Brazil, Cargill last month announced production of biodiesel from its new 200,000 tonnes/year facility in Tres Lagoas (Mato Grosso do Sul). The $130m investment is located alongside Cargill’s soybean processing plant. Cargill said it started purchasing soybeans this year from 1,100 small farmers in the area. The company will start working on family farms in Mato Grosso and Para next year.
According to Cargill, the biodiesel market in Brazil reached over 2.5m cubic meters (660m gallons) last year from virtually zero in 2006. The increase is due to mandatory blending of 5% biodiesel in all diesel fuel distributed in the country.
In other biofuel-related news, algae developer Joule announced yesterday that it has commissioned its first SunsSprings (TM) demonstration plant in Hobbs, New Mexico, where the company will begin production of Joule Sunflow-E to compete in the ethanol market. Joule said it has already achieved productivity rates for its ethanol at 15,000 gallons/acre (per year) in the lab and 8,000 gallons/acre in outdoor production.
Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E per acre annually, at costs as low as $1.28/gallon without subsidies. The company said it will be equipped to deploy its modular platform across multiple sites around the world targeting initial production rate of 10,000 gal/acre/year.
Joule also launched a global subsidiary, Joule Fuels, to oversee plant deployment and partnerships – from site selection and project development to plant construction and operations – with the immediate goal of commissioning multiple plants worldwide.
Joule Fuels intend to start commercialization of Sunflow-E followed by Sunflow-D for the global diesel market. Sunflow-D is reportedly in development with an ultimate productivity target of 15,000 gallons/acre/year at costs as low as $50/barrel without subsidies.
Finland-based oil company Neste Oil, meanwhile, announced late last month that it has built a pilot plant for producing microbial oil. Neste’s goal is to develop oil-producing microorganisms (using yeast and fungi) to convert sugars from waste and residues (such as straw and byproducts of pulp and paper industry) into a feedstock to produce Neste’s NExBTL renewable diesel.
The EUR8m ($10.3m) microbial oil pilot plant is said to be the first of its kind in Europe. Neste is looking to have a commercial-scale production by 2015 at the earliest.
The company, by the way, also announced last month that it has ended its biodiesel plant project with Finnish forest products producer Stora Enso because of insufficient funding. The companies have applied for funding under the European Union’s NER 300 program but was not accepted. The funding program is geared towards companies looking to build innovative renewable energy technology and carbon capture/storage.
While the trials carried out by the companies at a pilot plant in Varkaus between 2009 and 2011 is said to be successful (from wood biomass to biowax to renewable diesel), Neste Oil and Stora Enso said the cost to carry out the project will be very significant even if they won the public funding.
Finally (whew!), also Finland-based Chempolis is looking to establish commercial-scale biorefinery projects with Chinese companies in Chongqing. The company said it has developed and patented biorefining technologies to use agricultural biomass for the production of the company’s formicobio (TM) cellulosic ethanol, biochemicals and biocoal.
In Chongqing, 8.4m tons of biomass such as rice and wheat straw and corn stalk are reportedly generated annually, and are mainly used as low-value energy source and soil fertilizers by farmers.