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Cellulosic Ethanol (CE)

An introduction to Cellulosic Ethanol technology

Biofuels Digest - Cellulosic Biofuels Industry Progress Report 2012-2013

EC-funded projects on cellulosic ethanol

Demonstration and flagship projects on cellulosic ethanol:

Development of enzymes and processes for cellulosic ethnaol production

Development of commercial cellulosic ethanol plants in North America and Brazil

Novel pathways to cellulosic ethanol

Use of Lignin

Introduction

Cellulosic ethanol is chemically identical to first generation bioethanol (i.e. CH3CH2OH). However, it is produced from different raw materials via a more complex process (cellulose hydrolysis).

In contrast to first generation bioethanol, which is derived from sugar or starch produced by food crops (e.g. wheat, corn, sugar beet, sugar cane, etc), cellulosic ethanol may be produced from agricultural residues (e.g. straw, corn stover), other lignocellulosic raw materials (e.g. wood chips) or energy crops (miscanthus, switchgrass, etc).

These lignocellulosic raw materials are more abundant and generally considered to be more sustainable, however they need to be broken down (hydrolysed) into simple sugars prior to distillation. This may be achieved using either acid or enzyme hydrolysis. Both approaches have been the subject of continuing research interest since the 1970s, and large investments are being made in the US and Europe to speed up development of this route to bioethanol.

Cellulosic ethanol is now being produced on commercial scale in both Europe and the US (see further details below). In October 2013, M&G officially opened the world's largest cellulosic ethanol production facility at Crescentino. In July 2013, Ineos Bio announced the start of production at its 8MMgy facility at Vero Beach, US.

Demostration plants for commercial scale production of cellulosic ethanol are also under development in Europe (e.g. Inbicon, Kalundborg and Abengoa, Salamanca).

In addition, a number of pilot plants are developing thermochemical/biochemical routes to create bioethanol from commercial waste and MSW.

In January 2012 a report Moving towards a next-generation ethanol economy by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (commissioned by Novzymes), highlighted the important role that advanced bioethanol could play in the global bioeconomy, with the potential to create millions of new jobs bewteen 2011-2030.

Further information:

Research Advances - Cellulosic Ethanol NREL (PDF)

Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol: A Joint Research Agenda
The above page links to a downloadable high resolution version of the diagram below and associated information on Cellulosic Ethanol.

From Biomass to Cellulosic Ethanol

© Copyright US DOE Genomics Science Programme
From Biomass to Cellulosic Ethanol
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M&G commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plants in Crescentino (Italy), Brazil and United States

Final BIOLYFE Conference: 2nd Generation Bioethanol Production: Demonstrating large-scale bioethanol production from lignocellulosic feedstocks will be held in Brussels on 4th December 2013.

This conference will provide insight into the realisation of the world’s largest lignocellulosic bioethanol plant and discuss critical success factors for commercial-scale second generation bioethanol production worldwide.

Stakeholedrs are invited to register for the BIOLYFE Conference by 22 November 2013. Further informastion is available on the BIOLYFE website

The Beta Renewables commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant at Crescentino was officially opened on 9th October 2013. It is currently the world's largest advanced biofuels refinery with a production capacity of 75 million litres of cellulosic ethanol annually. The shareholders of Beta Renewables are Chemtex, a company of the Mossi & Ghisolfi Group (M&G), TPG Capital, and Novozymes.

The plant is based on the patented Proesa™ process, and uses Novozymes enzyme technology to convert local wheat straw, rice straw and Arundo donax to ethanol. Lignin, extracted during the 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.

Prior to the construction of BioCrescentino, Proesa™ process was optimised at the Rivalta Scrivia (Alessandria) pilot plant, which has a capacity of 1t/day of biomass treated.

pdf icon View short presentation on the opening of the commercial Crescentino Cellulosic Ethanol Refinery

Previously, a presentation on the commissioning of the Crescentino plant was made at EBTP SPM5 in February 2013.

pdf icon Case study on the first commercial advanced ethanol plant in the EU, and how it was financed
Stefania Pescarolo, M&G Chemtex

Beta Rewables technology is also being used for a Commercial Scale Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Brazil.

In May 2103, Canergy LLC announced that Chemtex/Beta Renewables technology would be used for a 25 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant in Imperial Valley, California. Cane straw and bagasse will be used as a feedstock, and the plant will directly create over 100 permanent jobs. Construction is due to start in early 2014.

In August 2012, it was announced that Chemtex International Inc. had received a conditional USDA loan guarantee to build a 20 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility in eastern North Carolina using energy grasses as feedstock, also using Prosea™ technoloy. In July 2013, Chemtex International signed a long-term agreement with Murphy-Brown LLC, Warsaw, N.C., for supply of energy crops for the cellulosic ethanol facility at Clinton. The crops will be grown on land not used for grain production.

In November 2013, Beta Renewables announced plans for a biorefinery in China that will convert straw and corn stover to ethanol and mono-ethylene glycol (MEG), which is used to produce polyester. The facility is a joint venture with Guozhen Group Co., and will be constructed in the Fuyang region, which has abundant agricultural residues available. The biorefinery will process 1 million metric tons of biomass per year, around 4 times the volume of BioCrecentino.

pdf icon Overview of biochemical value chains including update of cellulosic ethanol demonstration projects from EBTP SPM5 February 2013

Frédéric Monot, Head of Biotechnology, IFP Energies nouvelles

Biofuels Digest - Cellulosic Biofuels Industry Progress Report 2012-2013

In December 2012 Biofuels Digest published the Cellulosic Biofuels Industry Progress Report 2012-2013 providing a snapshot of advances made towards the commercial deployment of cellulosic biofuels. The report profiles cellulosic biofuel production facilities and projects in approx. 20 US states and several provinces in Canada as well as China, Denmark, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Cellulosic Biofuels Industry Progress Report

EC-funded projects on Cellulosic Ethanol

BABETHANOL - a collaborative research project between Europe and Latin America for the development of more sustainable processes for 2nd generation biofuel from lignocellulosic biomass (FP7 227498)

A short video presentation on the BABETHANOL project.

BABILAFUENTE - Project for the Production of 200 Million Litres of Bioethanol in Babilafuente (Salamanca) from Cereals and Lignocellulose (FP5 - NNE5 - 00685)

BIOCORE - Biocommodity refinery (FP7 BIOREFINE 241566)

BIO-HUG Novel bioprocesses for hemicellulose up-grading (FP5 - QLK3 - 00080)
Further information

BIOLYFE Demonstrating large-scale bioethanol production from lignocellulosic feedstocks (FP7-239204)

DISCO Targeted DISCOvery of novel cellulases and hemicellulases and their reaction mechanisms for hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass (FP7)

FibreEtOH Bioethanol from paper fibres separated from solid waste, MSW (FP7 239341)

HYPE High efficiency consolidated bioprocess technology for lignocellulose ethanol (FP7 213139)

KACELLE Kalundborg Cellulosic Ethanol Project (FP7). The aim is to bring the patented Inbicon Core Technology from a pre-commercial level to a near-commercial level, making the technology available in the market and attractive to investors (see also Inbicon Biomass Refinery below)

LED (Lignocellulosic Ethanol Demonstration) - Industrial solutions from a global bioethanol player

NEMO - Novel high performance enzymes and micro-organisms for conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to bioethanol

NILE- New Improvements for Ligno-cellulosic Ethanol (FP6 - 1982)

PROETHANOL2G - An EU-Brazil Collaborative project on Integration of Biology and Engineering into an Economical and Energy-Efficient 2G Bioethanol Biorefinery

 

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Demonstration Plant in Salamanca and commercial plant in Kansas, US

Model of Inbicon demonstration plant for production of cellulosic ethanol from straw

© Copyright Abengoa
Abengoa 2G Ethanol Demo Plant in Salamanca
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In the United States, Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas is a project to build a plant for the production of 25 Mgal (100 ML) of cellulosic ethanol and 22 MW of renewable energy from biomass (mixture of agricultural waste, non-feed energy crops and wood waste). The plant will be located to the west of Hugoton, state of Kansas, and will create 65 permanent jobs. The construction of the Hugoton plant began in July 2011 and it is expected to begin operations in early 2014.

Abengoa provided its proprietary process technology and the process engineering design for a BCyL Biomass Plant in Salamanca. Managed by Abengoa, the biomass plant was completed in December 2008 and has been fully operational since September 2009. It was the world’s first plant to utilize this technology on such a scale. It is located within the Biocarburantes de Castilla y León plant, meaning that both facilities share common services and process chains.

This plant has been used to improve the design of the commercial plants to be constructed over the coming years, assess operating costs, identify bottlenecks and streamline operations.

The plant capacity is 70 tpd of lignocellulosic, biomass such as wheat straw, and is able to produce over 5 MMl of fuel grade ethanol per year.

The production process involves:

  • Preparation of biomass
  • Thermochemical pretreatment
  • Enzymatic Hydrolysis and fermentation with enzymes and yeast
  • Distillation to produce ethanol and a solid co-product

Abengoa's demonstration plant was supported by the 5th Framework Programme.

Abengoa also heads the LED (Lignocellulosic Ethanol Demonstration) project funded by the European Commission and developed by a consortium of five companies from four different countries, with a plant in Arance, France.

In January 2012, Abengoa announced that its cellulosic ethanol technology would be used to produce ethanol from sugar cane cane straw and bagasse in Brazil, as part of the Industrial Innovation Program for the Sugar Energy Sector.

Inbicon Biomass Refinery - demonstration of combined fermentation of C5 and C6 sugars at industrial scale

In December 2013, DONG Energy and Royal Dutch DSM announced the succesful demonstration of a combined fermentation of C6 and C5 sugars from wheat straw on industrial scale. The combined fermentation results in a 40% increase in ethanol yield per ton of straw, which can result in significant cost cuts in the production of second generation bio-ethanol. The joint work by DONG Energy and DSM hase been co-funded by the FP7 KACELLE project.

In March 2010, Great River Energy announced that it would use Inbicon technology in a $300m biorefinery to produce cellulosic ethanol primarily from 480 000 tons of wheat straw (and other agricultural residues) from a 70 mile radius. The refinery will be operational by 2015. The lignin produced as a by-product will be used to increase the efficiency of a nearby power plant [ Source: Great River Energy].

In Autumn 2009, Inbicon a subsidiary of DONG Energy started the construction of a demonstration plant in Kalundborg, Denmark to showcase the company's second-generation technology for large-scale production of ethanol from straw.

The Kalundborg plant (at the Asnæs Power Station) also demonstrates energy integration with a power station. Steam from the power plant cooks the straw, and residual biofuel from the ethanol plant is burned by the power plant. Since the cellolosic ethanol plant produces more energy than it consumes to convert the biomass, the end result is an energy surplus that brings down the cost for both plants and demonstrates the efficiency and financial viability of the Inbicon process

The demonstration used use 4 tonnes of straw per hour, equivalent to 30,000 tonnes of straw per year. Danisco Genencor & Novozymes were pre-qualified as suppliers of enzymes. The output will be 4300 tonnes / 5400 m3 of ethanol per year. The plant was designed to produce 11,100 tonnes of molasses (65%DM) per year, which is currently used for feed, but could in future also be used for bioethanol or biogas production

DONG Energy has signed a contract with Statoil, who will purchase the first five million litres of Inbicon’s bioethanol.

Model of Inbicon demonstration plant for production of cellulosic ethanol from straw

© Copyright Inbicon
Model of Inbicon demonstration plant for production of cellulosic ethanol from straw View at larger size >>

 

Clariant – sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant, Straubing and fleet test of E20 with Mercedes-Benz

In recent years, Clariant (formerly Süd-Chemie, www.sunliquid.com), a global leader in the field of specialty chemicals headquartered in Switzerland, has been developing the sunliquid® process for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues, which is ready to market.

In January 2014 Clariant announced it is fleet testing sunliquid with Mercedes-Benz, whose BlueDIRECT engines are already able to use E20. During 2014, test fleet vehicles will be fuelled with sunliquid at the Mercedes-Benz site in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. At the Haltermann plant in Hamburg the cellulosic ethanol is mixed with selected components to form the innovative fuel, the specifications of which reflect potential European E20 fuel quality.

On 20 July 2012, the sunliquid demonstration plant was officially commissioned in the Lower Bavarian town of Straubing. The plant replicates the entire process chain on an industrial scale, from pre-treatment to ethanol purification, serving to verify the viability of sunliquid technology on an industrial scale. On an annual basis, up to 1,000 tons of cellulosic ethanol can be produced at this plant, using approximately 4,500 tons of wheat straw. Other feedstocks are also to be tested at a later stage.

Model of Inbicon demonstration plant for production of cellulosic ethanol from straw

© Copyright Clariant/Rötzer
Clariant sunliquid® demonstration facility
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The biofuel obtained using this process is manufactured on an energy-neutral basis and boasts greenhouse gas savings of some 95% – 5% being attributable to the logistics chain which is calculated as fossil-based. The production costs can compete with those of first-generation bioethanol.

Firstly the feedstock, for instance wheat straw, undergoes mechanical and thermal pre-treatment. This results in the lignin separating from the cellulose and hemicellulose chains, allowing the enzymes to split into sugar monomers during the next step. The enzymes used have been optimised to a high degree by the company and specifically modified for each type of feedstock and the relevant process conditions. This ensures particularly efficient hydrolysis, giving rise to high sugar yields.

As a result of process-integrated enzyme production, enzyme costs can be reduced to a minimum. To this end, a small portion of the pre-treated feedstock is channelled off from the main mass to serve as a basic source of nutrients for special microorganisms which produce the enzymes. These are therefore created whenever and wherever needed, with no costs being incurred for transport, storage or processing and without being dependent on enzyme suppliers.

Model of Inbicon demonstration plant for production of cellulosic ethanol from straw

© Copyright Clariant/Rötzer
Clariant sunliquid® integrated enzyme production
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Following hydrolysis, any remaining solid matter (mainly lignin) is separated out and incinerated to generate energy, leaving a sugar solution containing C5 sugars in addition to glucose, a C6 sugar. The sunliquid process makes use of a special fermentation organism which simultaneously converts both C6 and C5 sugars into ethanol by way of a one-pot reaction, consequently producing around 50% more ethanol than comparable processes, which are only able to convert C6 sugars.

The final unit process consists of purifying the ethanol produced. This is usually carried out by means of classic distillation which, however, calls for high energy input. Clariant has developed an energy-efficient, adsorption-based separation process which, by comparison, offers energy savings of up to 50%. As a result of optimising this and other process design features, it is possible to generate the energy needed for the entire process from accumulated residue (mostly lignin). No additional fossil energy sources are required. The total ethanol yield lies between 20 and 25% (theoretical maximum: 27%).

 

Two Cellulosic Ethanol projects to be funded under first NER300 call

BEST cellulosic ethanol project, Crescentino, Italy

On 18 December 2012 it was announced that the BEST project, Italy has been selected to receive counterpart funding of €28.4m under the first call for proposals of the NER300 funding programme for innovative low-carbon technologies. The Project concerns the design, construction and operation of an integrated biofuels demonstration plant in Crescentino (province of Vercelli, Piemonte region, Italy), at a distance of about 40 km from Turin. The Project envisages second generation technology conversion of lignocellulosic biomass from selected energy crops into ethanol. The Project proposes the cultivation and use of a new, autochthonous energy crop, Arundo donax (giant cane).The utilisation of wheat straw as an additional main lignocellulose biomass feedstock is
also foreseen. The annual production capacity amounts to 51 Ml/year. Additionally, lignin will be produced as a by-product at some 165 t/year on wet basis.

CEG Plant Goswinowice, Poland
It was also announced that the CEG Plant Goswinowice, Poland has been selected to receive counterpart funding of €30.9m under the first call for proposals of the NER300 funding programme for innovative low-carbon technologies. The Project will demonstrate the production of second generation bioethanol from agricultural
residues on a large commercial scale. The Project will make use of ~250000 t/year of wheat straw (75%) and corn stover (25%) sourced from the local agricultural area to produce 60 Ml/year of ethanol. The Project is located in Goswinowice in Poland close to an existing first generation ethanol plant. The Project plant and existing plant will be partially integrated. The co-products, lignin (70000 t dry matter lignin, moisture content 50-60%) and biogas (22.3 MNm3 biogas, 75% methane), will be sold as a fuel to the existing plant which in turn will
provide steam for both plants.

[Source: SWD(2012) 224 final: NER300 - Moving towards a low carbon economy and boosting innovation, growth and employment across the EU]

 

Inbicon Biomass Refinery for production of Cellulosic Ethanol

In December 2013, DONG Energy and Royal Dutch DSM announced the succesful demonstration of a combined fermentation of C6 and C5 sugars from wheat straw on industrial scale. The combined fermentation results in a 40% increase in ethanol yield per ton of straw, which can result in significant cost cuts in the production of second generation bio-ethanol. The joint work by DONG Energy and DSM hase been co-funded by the FP7 KACELLE project.

In March 2010, Great River Energy announced that it would use Inbicon technology in a $300m biorefinery to produce cellulosic ethanol primarily from 480 000 tons of wheat straw (and other agricultural residues) from a 70 mile radius. The refinery will be operational by 2015. The lignin produced as a by-product will be used to increase the efficiency of a nearby power plant [ Source: Great River Energy].

In Autumn 2009, Inbicon a subsidiary of DONG Energy started the construction of a demonstration plant in Kalundborg, Denmark to showcase the company's second-generation technology for large-scale production of ethanol from straw.

The Kalundborg plant (at the Asnæs Power Station) also demonstrates energy integration with a power station. Steam from the power plant cooks the straw, and residual biofuel from the ethanol plant is burned by the power plant. Since the cellolosic ethanol plant produces more energy than it consumes to convert the biomass, the end result is an energy surplus that brings down the cost for both plants and demonstrates the efficiency and financial viability of the Inbicon process

The demonstration used use 4 tonnes of straw per hour, equivalent to 30,000 tonnes of straw per year. Danisco Genencor & Novozymes were pre-qualified as suppliers of enzymes. The output will be 4300 tonnes / 5400 m3 of ethanol per year. The plant was designed to produce 11,100 tonnes of molasses (65%DM) per year, which is currently used for feed, but could in future also be used for bioethanol or biogas production

DONG Energy has signed a contract with Statoil, who will purchase the first five million litres of Inbicon’s bioethanol.

Model of Inbicon demonstration plant for production of cellulosic ethanol from straw

© Copyright Inbicon
Model of Inbicon demonstration plant for production of cellulosic ethanol from straw View at larger size >>


Futurol pre-industrial pilot for cellulosic ethanol

In October 2011, the FUTUROL project announced the commissioning of it is first pre-industrial pilot plant at Pomacle-Bazancourt, France. The plant will validate research into second generation bioethanol carried out since 2008. The plant will, use sustainable, local supply chains of feedstock including agricultural, forestry and other wastes. The plant on 1:1000 scale will produce 180,000 litres/year.

BioGasol Demonstration Plant - BornBioFuel2

In April 2012 BioGasOl announced a partnership with Sweetwater Energy Inc., who will integrate the BioGasol pretreatment technology (Carbofrac™) into its systems to maximise sugar production from non-food biomass.

The BioGasol process converts straw and other lignoicellulosic agricultural residues into ethanol, biogas, hydrogen and solid fuel with minimum use of water and low production costs. The process features a thermochemcial pretreatment and a unique fermentation process based on proprietary microbes, which convert both C6 and C5 sugars to ethanol. A demonstration plant on Bornholm island, supported by grants from the Danish Energy Agency (EUDP), will begin operating in 2011, using 27000 tonnes of dry feedstock to produce 7 Mio litres of ethanol per annum.

Biogasol is also in partnership wth Pacific Ethanol Inc to build the West Coast Biorefinery, in which BioGasol's technology will be integrated with an existing corn-based bioethanol plant. The project is co-financed by the US DoE. Operation is scheduled for 2011. The plant capacity will be 5.8 tonnes of dry feedstock per hour (straw, hybrid poplar and cornstover), and will produce 10 Mio litres of ethanol per year.

Conversion of MSW and cellulosic materials to ethanol via gasification and synthesis

Enerkem agreement with City of Edmonton for commercial-scale production of ethanol from MSW via gasification

Enerkem, through its affiliate Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, has signed a 25-year agreement with the City of Edmonton to build and operate a plant that will produce and sell next-generation biofuels from non-recyclable and non-compostable municipal solid waste (MSW).  Sorted MSW is shredded and then fed into a gasifier, where heat and pressure create syngas, which is then cleaned and conditioned prior to catalytic conversion to methanol and ethanol.  With a production capacity of 38 million litres per year (10 million gallons per year), the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility is expected to be the world's first major collaboration of its kind, between a metropolitan centre and a waste-to-biofuels producer.  This facility is part of a comprehensive municipal waste-to-biofuels initiative in partnership with the City of Edmonton and Alberta Innovates, and will enable the City of Edmonton to increase its residential waste diversion rate to 90 percent.  For more information please visit www.edmontonbiofuels.ca and www.enerkem.com

Range Fuels Two-Step Process

Also in the US, the Range Fuels Inc process uses heat, pressure and steam to convert cellulosic feedstocks (e.g. wood, grasses and corn stover) into syngas. In a second step the gas is passed over a proprietary catalyst to produce ethanol or methanol.

Fulcrum technology for conversion of MSW to ethanol via a gasification step

In August 2012, Fulcrum Bioenergy Inc announced a $105m USDA loan guarantee from the USDA, which will support development of the proposed 10 MMgy Sierra BioFuels MSW to ethanol plant. This also includes a gasification step to convert organic waste materials into syngas.

 

Chempolis biorefinery for cellulosic ethanol

Chempolis, Finland has invested €20m in a biorefinery to produce cellulosic ethanol (as well as biochemicals and fibres) from a wide range of non-food biomass, particularly straw and bagasse. The biorefinery was opened by the Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen on 4 May 2010. The plant can process 25000 t/a of raw material, and will also be used for testing raw materials and producing samples of bioethanol. The biorefinery processes are designed to be self-sufficient (with virtually no GHG production) and low in water consumption The Chemopolis formicobio™ technology combines selective fractionation and efficient enzymatic hydrolysis followed by rapid fermentation. The biosolvent is completely recoverable, and the process requires a low level of enzyme input. [Source: Chemopolis].

Borregaard production of ethanol from spruce

Cellulose producer, Borregaard, is involved in the development of biorefineries for the production of value-added products from wood, including bioethanol. It currently supplies ethanol derived from spruce for 20 buses in Oslo. Borregaard is a key partner in the FP7 biorefinery projects Supra-Bio and EuroBioRef

FibreEtOH Project

The €16.26m collaborative FibreEtOH project will run from 2010-2013, with €8.65m support under FP7. The project is coordinated by UPM-Kymmenne. Other partners include AB Enzymes GMBH, Skandinavisk Kimiinformation AB, Poyry Forest Industry ConsulatingOY, Sila & Tikanoja OYJ, ST1 Biofuels, Roal and Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus.

The innovative focus in the FibreEtOH project is to demonstrate for the first time globally in a commercial scale, a cost efficient paper fibre based ethanol production with high, > 70 % overall energy efficiency with high > 50 % green house gas reduction. 2nd generation ethanol production technology has been developed using mainly corn stover, straw or saw dust as raw material. So far reliable and cost efficient hydrolysis technology has been the bottleneck for large scale commercial success.

By using paper fibres separated from commercial and municipal solid waste or de-inking sludge at paper mills, the hydrolysis process will be significantly easier as no pretreatment and special fractionation process is needed. It is estimated that such raw material is available in quantities for more than one million t/a ethanol production capacity. The EtOH production cost will be highly attractive due to the low price of the waste based raw material and the distillation steam compared to typical straw and wood EtOH production plants. The proposed demonstration plan with 20 000 m3/a ethanol production capacity will be build using 250 000 t/a waste from Helsinki metropolitan area in Finland. Biogas, district heat and electricity will be produced from the by-products.

The site and environmental permits have already been granted. The ethanol will be used in Finland in dedicated E5 E85 blends optimising the ethanol fuels to cold climate conditions and tail pipe emissions reduction.

The FibreEtOH-proposal will demonstrate innovations in a novel 2G EtOH production chain using optimized and cost-effective enzymatic hydrolysis process taking advantage of the adjacent enzyme production and the whole production concept with high overall process integration.

 

Enzymes for Cellulosic Ethanol production

A number of companies are developing enzymes for cellulose hydrolysis including Novozyme, Denmark, which produces cellulase and hemicellulase. In September 2012 Novozyme announced it was considering marketing a C5 yeast strain developed by Terranol, Denmark for use in advanced biofuel production (for example, from corn stover hydrolysate).

In June 2013, Direvo Industrial Biotechnology GmbH announced it has been granted US and European patents for 'polypeptides with cellobiohydrolase II activity'. These offer higher performance compared to currently available cellulase enzymes, says Direvo.

In 2009, Syngenta entered into a collaboration agreement with Proteus, France to develop CE enzymes.

Codexis works closely with Shell and Iogen on enhacing the efficiency of enzymes for cellulosic ethanol production.

Dyadic optimises C1 Platform Technology for the development of novel enzymes to convert biomass into fermentable sugars to produce cellulosic ethanol and butanol as well as chemicals, polymers and plastics. Dyadic is currently a party to non-exclusive license agreements with Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies, Inc. and Codexis, Inc. Following a 4-year demonstration project between Dyadic and SEKAB-E Technology (see DISCO Project) a new enzyme for cellulosic ethanol production AlternaFuel CMAX™ has been succesfully developed.

Biométhodes has developed proprietary technologies within pretreatment and a unique enzyme solution for maximum cost reduction of ethanol production and valuation of all biomass compounds [Source: Biométhodes]. The company also aims to develop value-added applications for lignin. See also biohydrogen.

 

Petrobras Novozymes agreement on 2G ethanol from sugarcane bagasse

In October 2010, Petrobras and Novozymes entered an agreement to develop a new route to produce second generation biofuel from sugarcane bagasse. The agreement covers the development of enzymes and production processes to produce second generation lignocellulosic ethanol from bagasse in an enzymatic process.

"The commercial potential of cellulosic ethanol in Brazil is substantial due to the great amount of sugarcane bagasse, a fibrous residue of sugarcane production, available in the country. Brazil is the world’s largest sugarcane producer with an extraction capacity of approximately 600 million tons per year, currently yielding 27 billion liters (7 billion gallons) of ethanol. It is estimated that bagasse-to-ethanol technology can increase the country’s ethanol production by some 40% without having to increase the crop area" [Source: Novozymes].

TMO Renewables Cellulosic Ethanol Technology

In October 2012 TMO Renewables signed a 25-year feedstock supply contract with Usina Santa Maria Cerquilho, and in April 2013 signed an MOU with the company to build and operate a bagasse-to-cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil. A 10 MMgy plant is scheduled to go into proiduction in 2014, followed by construction of a larger plant. TMO Renewables has been supported in this project by BB2E Ltd UK.

In August 2012, TMO Renewables signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the authorities of Heilongjiang, China, to secure long term large volume biomass feedstock supply for future biofuel production facilities from Heilongjiang State Farm, the largest state owned farming corporation in China. In May 2011 TMO Renewables announced technology partnerships with COFCO and CNOOC New Energy Investment in China to produce ethanol from cassava.

In 2009, TMO Renewables Ltd celebrated the first year of operation of its Process Demonstration Unit (PDU), the UK's first Cellulosic Ethanol plant. The PDU processed a wide range of cellulosic feedstocks, to demonstrate the commercial viability of TMO's unique pretreatment and fermentation technology based on a strain of bacteria found in compost heaps.

TMO Renewables Process Demonstration Unit - Cellulosic Ethanol

© Copyright TMO
The TMO Renewables PDU has succesfully tested feedstock samples from major US Biofuels companies, and is now looking to integrate its process at a commercial scale.
View at larger size >>

TMO Renewables Process Demonstration Unit - Cellulosic Ethanol

© Copyright TMO
Inside the TMO Renewables Process Demonstration Unit, which includes 5km of pipework
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In Spain, IMECAL is working with CIEMAT and FORD Spain on the PERSEO pilot plant to demonstrate production of bioethanol from MSW. These partners, as well as AVEN, are also operating the ATENEA pilot plant to demonstrate the conversion of citrus wastes into cellulolsic ethanol.

pdf icon View ATENEA presentation from SPM2

pdf icon View PERSEO presentation from SPM2

In Norway, Weyland has developed a version of the Strong Acid Process in which 98.5% of the acid can be recovered and recycled. Ethanol production by this method is competitive and virtually any type of cellulose containing feedstock can be processed. Coniferous wood, rice straw, corn cobs and bagasse have been successfully tested.

 

US Companies developing Cellulosic Ethanol plants and related technology:

Many of the companies developing cellulosic ethanol technology or demonstrations in the US are members of the Advanced Ethanol Council, which provides extensive information and data on the ethanol industry.

In July 2013, INEOS New Planet BioEnergy commenced commercial production at its 8M gallons-per-year cellulosic ethanol biorefinery at Vero Beach, Fla. This followed a $75 million loan guarantee from USDA. The plant also has a gross electricity production capacity of 6 MW. The feedstock for the process includes citrus and agricultural wastes, yard wastes and wood waste.

On March 13 2012, Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels LLC broke ground on the site of the $250m 'Project Liberty' cellulosic ethanol facility. The plant is on schedule for start-up in 2014. The plant will produce 20 MMgy per year of cellulosic ethanol from corn stover and cob, and will share infrastructure with the adjacent 50 MMgy ethanol plant.

In January 2011, the USDA announced that "Coskata, Inc. has received a letter of intent for a $250 million loan guarantee to construct and operate a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery facility. This 55-million gallon-per-year renewable biofuel project will use woody biomass to produce ethanol. In Pontotoc, Miss., Enerkem Corporation has been selected to receive an $80 million loan guarantee to build and operate a biorefinery that will be capable of producing 10 million gallons of advanced biofuel (cellulosic ethanol) per year by refining some 100,000 metric tons of dried and post-sorted municipal solid waste through a thermo-chemical cellulosic process (see also Westbury demo below)." [Source: USDA].

in May 2103, Canergy LLC announced that Chemtex/Beta Renewables technology would be used for a 25 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant in Imperial Valley, California. Chemtex International Inc. has also received a conditional USDA loan guarantee to build a 20 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility in eastern North Carolina using energy grasses as feedstock

Other examples of companies developing cellulosic ethanol technology include:

In May 2103, American Process Inc. (API) announced investment from GranBio for cellulosic ethanol plants in the US and Brazil. API currently operates two demo plants in the US - the Alpena Biorefinery, and a facility in Thomaston, which uses API's 'American Value Added Pulping' AVAP process to convert a range of feedstocks to sugars.

Verenium (Vercipia). In September 2013, it was announced that Verenium would be acquired by BASF. In September 2010 BP Biofuels acquired the Verenium demonstration faclities in Jennings, LA, as well as cellulosic biofuels technology. In October 2012, BP announced that it has cancelled the planned construction of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Florida, and instead will focus on licensing its 2G technologies.

California Ethanol & Power LLC Developing a facility able to produce 66 Mgy of ethanol, ~50 MW of electricity and 940M cubic feet of biogas, using sweet sorghum and sugar cane. The engineering will be led by Uni-systems do Brazil Ltda. Shell has signed a five-year offtake agreement for the electricity, biogas and ethanol [Source: CE&P October 2013].

DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol LLC

Mascoma

ZeaChem Operates an existing 250,000 GPY integrated demonstration biorefinery, at thePort of Morrow, near Boardman, and hasin February 2012 received $12 from USDA to further develop/demonstrate its biorefinery systems.

Qteros

BlueFire Ethanol Has developed commercial Concentrated Acid Hydrolyisis technology for conversion of cellulosic feedstock to sugars. BlueFire is currently in the process of developing two cellulosic ethanol facilities in Lancaster, California and Fulton, Mississippi.

KL Energy Corp. is using its technology (based on a thermal-mechanical pretreatment process), in partnership with Petrobras, to convert sugarcane bagasse to ethanol. A demonstration plant has been operated in the US (exporting cellulosic ethanol to Brazil). The technology will be integrated in Brazil in future. KL Energy Corp. also aims to market its technology in the US and EU (France, Germany and Scandinavia) [Source: KL Energy Corp. website].

Abengoa Bioenergy - Constructing a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas due to start production in 2014.

Edeniq - in June 2012, officially launched a Corn to Cellulosic Migration (CCM) pilot plant, which announced 1000 hours of continuous operation in May 2013.

Aemetis

Fiberight - Is developing commercial scale plants for conversion of MSW to ethanol

Fulcrum Bioenergy Inc has received a $105m USDA loan guarantee from the USDA, which will support development of the proposed 10 MMgy Sierra BioFuels MSW to ethanol plant.

 

POET Cellulosic Ethanol Pilot Plant

© Copyright POET
POET Cellulosic Ethanol Pilot Plant, Scotland, SD, US, producing 20,000 gallons per year using corn cobs as feedstock. The $8m pilot plant is a precursor to the $200 million Project LIBERTY, a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant that will begin production in 2011.
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Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plants in Brazil

Prosea™ pretreatment technology licensed from Beta Renewables, a joint venture between Chemtex and TPG, will be used in Brazil's first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant at Alagaos. Novozymes will supply the hydrolytic enzymes, and DSM yeasts will be used for the fermentation.

In May 2013, BNDES provided a $149m loan to Bioflex Agroindustrial, a subsidiary of GranBio, for construction of the plant, which will convert bagasse and residual sugar cane straw into 2G ethanol. BNDES said "The use of straw and bagasse will allow industrial productivity of ethanol to reach around 10,000 liters per hectare, corresponding to an increase of up to 45 percent compared to current levels."

Work on the first Granbio plant in São Miguel dos Campos is scheduled to commence in March 2014. GranBio intends to build a new thanol plant each year up to 2020 with a planned investment of US$1.7 billion.

In September 2013, Raízen Energia S/A signed an agreement with Novozymes to supply enzymes for its commercial Cellulosic Ethanol plant at the Costa Pinto sugarcane mill, São Paulo. The plant is due to start operation by end 2014. In November 2013, it was announced that construction had started at the 10MMgy plant, which will use technology developed by Iogen Energy, a joint venture of Raízen and Iogen Corp..

 

 

Cellulosic Ethanol in Canada

VANERCO, a joint venture between Enerkem and GreenField, plans to develop a cellulosic ethanol plant at the GreenField ethanol plant in Varennes, Quebec. In September 2013 it was announced that the project will receive some initial funding from the SDTC NextGen Biofuels Fund.

In June 2012, Enerkem started production of cellulosic ethanol from waste at its pre-commercial demo facility in Westbury, Québec, which uses an innovative thermochemical conversion technology.

In January 2014 Iogen announced a new method to produce drop-in biofuels from biogas. It plans to introduce the technology (alongside ethanol production) at its CE plants to increase overall production efficiency. In November 2013, it was announced that construction had started on a 10MMgy facility in Brazil using cellulosic ethanol technology of Iogen Energy, a joint venture of Raízen and Iogen Corp.. On April 30, 2012 Royal Dutch Shell and Iogen laid off 150 employees at Iogen's headquarters in Ottawa. Plans for a 10 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant in Manitoba were suspended.

Shell had previously worked with Iogen (and Codexis) and the federal government to get Canada’s first commercial scale cellulose ethanol facility into production. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), has been actively engaged in the transition of Iogen technology from development to commercialization.

World first filling station offering Cellulosic Ethanol

© Copyright Iogen
World's first filling station offering Cellulosic Ethanol - 10% blend from wheat straw.

Lignol Innovations ltd (a subsidiary of Lignol Energy Corporation, Canada) operates a Cellulosic Ethasnol Development Centre in Vancouver, and is commissioning a pilot plant to produce bioethanol from lignocellulose (softwood, hardwood, agricultural residues). The technology is based on an thanol-based organosolv process aquired from Repap Enterprises (bought by UPM Kymmene in 2000). Lignol has signed an agreement with the US DoE for construction of a commercial demonstration plant (up to $30m). The plant is being planned with Suncor Energy, and has a projected input capacity of 100 tonnes a day [Source: IEA Bioenergy].

Cellulosic Ethanol technology - Ongoing Research and Novel Pathways

BE-Basic is developing a unique multi-purpose Bioprocess Pilot Facility BPF at Delft in the Netherlands, where companies, universities and knowledge institutions can investigate and learn how sustainable production processes respond to larger scales and how they can be scaled up. In January 2014 BPF announced it would be installing a prehydolysis system from Valmet.

In January 2104, French company Deinove announced the successful production of 9% ethanol from lignocellulosic feedstocks using Deinococcus bacteria in medium-sized (300 litre) bioreactors. The company now plans to develop the technology at industrial scale. The technology was developed through the Deinol project, which involved CNRS Montpellier and INSA Toulouse and the Tereos group (via its SYRAL and BENP Lillebonne subsidiaries). The Deinol project received €8.9m from the Strategic Industrial Innovation programme run by Oséo, the French state innovation agency.

In February 2014, Aphios was granted US patents for its cellulosic biomass pretreatment method based on the Aosic process, in which "biomass is contacted with super fluids such as carbon dioxide with or without small quantities of polar cosolvents such as ethanol, both sourced from the downstream fermentation process. Pressure is released and fibers are made more accessible to enzymes as a result of expansive forces of super fluids (about 10 times those of steam explosion) and carbonic acid hydrolysis."

In February 2014, Leaf Energy, Australia, announced a succesful trial of Glycell Pretreatment Process, at the Andritz pilot plant, Springfield, Ohio. Leaf Energy is also working with Actinogen Ltd to exploit strains of Actinomycetes relevant to its technology.

Researchers at North Carolina State University are developing the use of protic ionic liquids, PILs, as a less-expensive method to remove lignin from cellulosic biomass.

In August 2013, US DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute announced the development of a 'one-pot' process for the ionic liquid pretreatment and saccharification of switchgrass.

Consolidated bioporcessing aims to simplify biofuel production pathways by integrating the steps of pre-treatment, hydrolysis and fermentation as far as possible. Companies working in this technology include Mascoma and Qteros.

The Qteros CBP platform leverages the natural advantages of the Q Microbe®, which produces virtually all the enzymes required to digest biomass into fermentable sugars and contains all pathways required for biomass conversion into ethanol. The result is a single-step conversion process that dramatically reduces the cost and complexity of producing cellulosic ethanol at commercial scale from a broad variety of non-food feedstocks [Source: Qteros].

Researchers at the University of Illinois have investigated the use of "switchable" butadiene sulfone in the presence of water as a potential pretreatment method to break down the cell wall in Miscanthus, and remove the lignin component. Subsequent recovery of the decomposition gases, reduces cost and environmental impact.

OSE0 (Strategic Industrial Innovation Programme), France awarded €8.9m to the €21.4m DEINOL project, which aims by 2014 to open up new pathways for lignocellulosic ethanol production in existing industrial installations, without the need for large additional capex. The OSEO award included Euro €6m to Deinove for the accelerated development of new biofuels production processes based on the bacteria Deinococcus. The other partners include CPBS (CNRS/University of Montpellier) and LISBP (INSA Toulose/CNRS/INRA),

Green Tech America is developing cellulosic ethanol technology using novel strains of yeast. The process is based on research by Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE), Purdue University, which developed GM yeasts in the 1990s to convert glucose and xylose to ethanol.

In Austria, M-Real Hallein AG is developing a concept to produce bioethanol from wood sugars derived from sulfite spent liquor (SSL), a by-product of paper and pulp production.

In November 2009, Delft University published research on GM strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that have been engineered for use of acetic acid as an electron acceptor. The pathway would provide three major benefits for production of ethanol from lignocellulosic materials: elimination of glycerol, reduction of toxic acetic acid to ethanol, and increased ethanol yields. A patent was applied for and industrial partners were being sought to further invetigate the potential of the process.

Use of Lignin

The pretreatment processes described above break down lignocellulosic feedstocks into:

  • hemicellulose, which is then hydrolysed by enzymes/acid to produce fermentable sugars for ethanol production
  • lignin, the 'woody component'

Lignin has a number of potential uses, including:

  • as a solid fuel
  • to add strength to concrete
  • as an antioxidant
  • to provide thermal protection to rubber
  • for production of carbon fibre, asphalt mixes, plastics and polymers
  • use as a paper sizing agent or board binder
  • as a soil binder, as a dispersent for pesticide/herbicide applications, and similar agricultural uses

Researchers are looking for ways to add value to lignin to increase the economics of cellulosic ethanol production. For example, the University of Wisconsin has developed a process using oxygen to convert lignin into a chemical feedstock as an alternative to production from fossil fuels.