Biofuel, Company initiatives

Zeachem completes cellulosic ethanol biorefinery

I am currently working on my weekly news roundup but in the meantime before Hurricane Sandy cuts off my electricity, I’ll post (separately) these news today that came from Zeachem and Novozymes.

Let’s start with Zeachem, which announced today that it has completed construction of its 250,000 gal/year biorefinery demonstration plant in Boardman, Oregon, and that it has also closed its series C financing totaling $25m.

Zeachem expects to start production of cellulosic ethanol by the end of 2012. It has already been producing acetic acid and ethyl acetate, which was the core operation of the facility. The intermediate chemicals can be used for applications including paint, lacquers and solvents, or the ethyl acetate can go through further processing (via hydrogenation) to manufacture ethanol at the back-end of the biorefinery.

In my last interview with Zeachem early this year, CEO Jim Imbler said the integrated demo plant’s primary purpose is to prove out the design and metrics for their planned first commercial plant with a capacity of 25m gal/year, which will be next door to the demo biorefinery.

Zeachem hopes to start construction of their commercial facility by 2013 and I guess the $25m financing could help jump-start that plan. Japan-based ITOCHU and Australia-based financial firm Macquarie are Zeachem’s new investors in this financing round. Birchmere Ventures, Firelake Capital, Globespan Capital Partners, Mohr Davidow Ventures, PrairieGold Venture Partners, and Spring Ventures also participated in the financing.

The US Department of Energy’s Integrated Biorefinery program also contributed $25m (20% cost-share) to help construct the front end (cellulosic to sugar) and back end (ethyl acetate to ethanol) operations of the biorefinery. The plant is said to be flexible enough to produce 100% cellulosic ethanol if needed or varying volumes of ethanol, ethyl acetate or acetic acid, whichever product is in demand.

Zeachem said back then that the demo biorefinery will use about 2,500 bone dry tonne of feedstock (100 gal ethanol per bone dry tonne). For the 25m gal/year planned commercial plant, the company expects to use about 110 gal/bone dry tonne of feedstock and ultimately increasing to 135 gal/bone dry tonne.

Zeachem’s Boardman, Oregon biorefinery

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.

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