The momentum for commercial cellulosic ethanol facility start-ups is going strong and this one from Beta Renewables is considered a big one as the company opened its 25m gal/year (75m liters/year) cellulosic ethanol facility in Crescentino, Italy. The facility is claimed to be the first in the world to be designed and built to produce ethanol from agricultural residues (wheat straw and rice straw) and energy crops (Arundo Donax) at commercial scale using enzymatic conversion (via Novozymes’ Cellic® enzymes).
Lignin, a polymer extracted from biomass during the ethanol production process, is used at an attached power plant, which generates enough power to meet the facility’s energy needs, with any excess green electricity sold to the local grid.
Beta Renewables is a joint venture between Biochemtex (a company of Italian plastic producer Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi or M&G) and investment firm TPG. Novozymes, which is the preferred enzyme supplier for Beta Renewables’ current and future cellulosic biofuel projects, also owns 10% of Beta Renewables.
The blog has been interested in the activities of Beta Renewables because of the company’s Proesa technology (currently applied at the Crescentino facility), which can convert lignocellulosic biomasses to cost-competitive sugars that can be used in the production of alcohols, biofuels and bio-based chemicals.
Beta Renewables has currently partnered with several renewable chemical companies such as Gevo (bio-butanol), Codexis (fatty alcohols), Genomatica (bio-butanediol), and Amyris (farnesene) for the use of its Proesa technology.