The blog has not been able to post most of the biofuel announcements in the past three months, unfortunately, as most of the blog’s focus is now on renewable chemicals instead. However, you can visit the blog’s home page where I will post updated compiled newsfeed of biofuel announcements each month.
For now, it seems several cellulosic ethanol projects will remain on track for commercialization despite the uncertainty of this year’s proposed biofuel volume requirements under the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS). The US Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to decrease the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volume standards for 2014 compared to the levels required in 2013 mostly attributed to lowered projected demand for the use of gasoline this year. The EPA has also received several requests from the petroleum/oil refining and associated industries to partially waive the statutory volume for 2014. The proposal is currently open for public comments until January 28, 2014.
Of course, there had been numerous comments coming from both the petroleum side and the biofuel side regarding the EPA 2014 RFS proposal. One of the major arguments from the biofuels industry is that it will slow down the development momentum for the commercialization of cellulosic biofuels. This year is also critical as there are several cellulosic biofuels start-up being planned this year as well as those who have already started-up last year and are now trying to ramp up production or improve their plants’ performance metrics.
POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels said its cellulosic bioethanol plant dubbed “Project Liberty” in Emmetsburg, Iowa, remains on schedule for startup in the first part of 2014. The plant will produce 20 million gallons/year of cellulosic biofuel and later ramping up to 25 million gallons using corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk for feedstock. Commissioning for select parts of the process is scheduled to begin this month.
According to the company, farmers within a 40-mile radius to the plant harvested around 100,000 tons of biomass last fall. Farmers are already signing contracts for the 2014 harvest. POET-DSM is said to be in talks with other ethanol producers about expanding their processing technology to more plants around the US in the future.
Abengoa Bioenergy is also in near-completion of the construction of its 25 million gal/year cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas. The plant, which will use corn stover for feedstock, is expected to start operation this month. DuPont, meanwhile, is expecting to start its 30 million gal/year cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa, by the second half of 2014. The facility will also use corn stover contracted from nearby farmers.
By the way, with a lot of snow and ice covering most of the Midwestern and Eastern states, the blog hopes that those collected corn stover will remain viable for these plants’ start-up use. From what I read in this Environmental and Energy (E&E) article (a good read too), the POET-DSM plant will require about 120,000 acres of collected corn stover while the DuPont plant will take around 160,000-170,000 acres of corn stover annually. The Hugoton plant is expected to consume 350,000 tons/year of biomass.
Meanwhile, KIOR and INEOS Bio both have already been operating their respective cellulosic biofuels facility in Columbus, Mississippi, and Vero Beach, Florida, since late 2012/early 2013.
KIOR expects that its 13 million gal/year Columbus facility will produce approximately 410,000 gallons of fuel during the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing full year production total from the facility to approximately 920,000 gallons. The ratio between gasoline, diesel and fuel oil expected to be produced during the year is approximately 35% gasoline, 40% diesel, and 25% fuel oil. The facility is producing gasoline and diesel blendstocks from Southern Yellow Pine woody biomass.
From now through the end of the first quarter of 2014, KIOR said it expects to implement a series of mechanical improvements to the facility rather than production volumes. The company said, the uncertainty caused by EPA’s proposed 2014 RFS rulemaking has already made and will continue to make KIOR’s expansion financing efforts more challenging. KIOR has been planning to construct its next flagship facility in Natchez, Mississippi, with about three times the size of the Columbus facility.
INEOS Bio reported last month that its Vero Beach facility located at its Indian River BioEnergy Center, has made significant operational progress and is expected to move towards stable operations in 2014. At full capacity, the plant has an annual output of 8 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol. The facility uses gasification and fermentation technology to convert biomass waste (such as vegetative and wood waste) into ethanol, According to INEOS Bio, the facility also had unexpected start-up issues and the company expects to focus on implementing upgrades and modifications to build its on-stream performance and reliability, as well as optimize the technology and de-bottleneck the plant to achieve full production capacity.
In additional news, Biochemtex will reportedly invest $200 million in a new cellulosic biofuels production center in Sampson County, North Carolina, operating under the name Carolina Cellulosic Biofuels, which was established in early 2013. The new plant will produce 20 million gal/year of cellulosic biofuel from locally grown energy crops, agricultural residues, and woody biomass.
The project was made possible in part by a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina Fund of up to $300,000. The One NC Fund provides financial assistance, through local governments, to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state. Other partners that helped with this project include: the N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Community Colleges, Sampson County Economic Development Corporation, Sampson County, City of Clinton, N.C. Department of Agriculture, NCSU – N.C. Cooperative Extension and the Biofuels Center of North Carolina.
In separate news outside the US, Brazilian ethanol producer Raizen Energia Participacoes S/A started construction of a 40 million liters/year commercial biomass-to-ethanol facility in Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, adjacent to Raizen’s Costa Pinto sugar cane mill. Plant start-up is expected in the fourth quarter of 2014. Iogen will provide cellulosic ethanol-related process technology, process designs and start-up/operational services to Raizen through their jointly owned Iogen Energy affiliate.
In Canada, Enerkem is gradually commissioning its full-scale 38 million liters/year municipal waste-to-biofuels and chemicals facility in Edmonton. Construction is reportedly nearing completion and commissioning will be completed in the next few months. Production of biomethanol will gradually start during this period, and an ethanol module will be added in 2014.