Biofuel, Company initiatives, Government, Investments, News Roundup

Cellulosic biofuels projects still on track

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.

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.


8 Responses to “Cellulosic biofuels projects still on track”

  1. Hi Doris – You missed two very important international projects. Beta Renewables (Biochemtex Proesa technology) Crescentino, Italy plant producing 75 million litres a year of second generation bioethanol from non-food biomass.
    And GranBio Bioflex I project in Alagoas, Brazil. Also using Proesa technology our plant will produce 82 million litres based on sugar cane bagasse and straw. The plant will start up in February this year. These are two of the biggest international projects and should not be overlooked. Thanks!

    Posted by Vonnie Estes | January 7, 2014, 5:45 am
    • Thanks for reminding me Vonnie! I seem to be always missing information every time I write about biofuels.

      Posted by Doris de Guzman | January 7, 2014, 5:30 pm
  2. Fiberight will also have a clerical facility in Blairstown Iowa to produce fermentable sugars from MSW. Focus is on converting MSW to biogas, biofuels, bio chemicals, and other value streams from urban waste.

    Posted by Jason Michael Blake | January 7, 2014, 3:58 pm
    • Thanks Jason! I wish there’s a like button in the comments section 🙂

      Posted by Doris de Guzman | January 7, 2014, 5:31 pm
  3. Doris: While we are adding international projects, there is the Clariant plant in Straubing, Germany. It uses the “Sunliquid Process”


    Posted by Neil Burns | January 8, 2014, 6:23 am
  4. The abengoa cellulosic plant in Hugoton is months if not years behind schedule. It was a race against the clock to have their electricity producing boiler up and running by then end of 2013 to qualify for a $40 million grant from the .gov. It had to run for 72 hours, not consecutive, to qualify. From December 22 to December 28 they ran it for a total of 73 hours and then shut it off. They qualified for the grant, but just barely. To say they will be coming online by the end of this month is a huge miscalculation. I wouldn’t be surprised if it never became fully operational. Also the estimated biomass it needs to operate, in excess of 360,000 tons per year, is going to be a huge order to fill. The proposed 50 mile radius to bring in the stover has since doubled. The giant fire last year in Moscow, KS that burned up nearly 80% of their stored stover really put them behind, as well as the local farmers unwillingness to subject their farm ground to the stripping of all the vital cover that is the cornstalks, and given that abengoa is paying pennies on the dollar for the stover, when the benefits of leaving it for the farmer greatly outweigh the price abengoa is paying. It is a failure, but as long as the .gov is handing out subsidies like Halloween candy, I suppose the joke is on the tax payers.

    Posted by Realist Jack | January 10, 2014, 12:28 pm
  5. I was a Plant Operator at Ineos Bio. Never in my career do I recall such an inefficient operation of a plant. It was like a big party. I was coached on how to spend excessively on expense accounts by the higher ups. I have to agree with the gentleman that pointed out that ‘the joke is on the taxpayer’. It was very apparent that serious changes had to be made for this operation to work in Vero Beach FL. Ineos Bio never says how many gallons they have produced for obvious reason.

    Posted by Marc Badley | January 11, 2014, 11:56 am
  6. Hi Jack and Marc,
    Thank you for the comments and for reading the blog. It is always good to know both sides of the ethanol story.

    Posted by Doris de Guzman | January 13, 2014, 10:48 pm

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