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Cellulosic ethanol commercialization

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Title: Cellulosic ethanol commercialization  
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Subject: Food vs. fuel, Ethanol, Renewable energy commercialization, Second-generation biofuels, Cellulosic ethanol
Collection: Biofuels, Biofuels Technology, Energy Development, Ethanol, Ethanol Fuel, Renewable Energy Commercialization
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Cellulosic ethanol commercialization

Cellulosic ethanol commercialization is the process of building an industry out of methods of turning cellulose-containing organic matter into fuel. Companies, such as Iogen, POET, DuPont, and Abengoa, are building refineries that can process biomass and turn it into bioethanol. Companies, such as Diversa, Novozymes, and Dyadic, are producing enzymes that could enable a cellulosic ethanol future. The shift from food crop feedstocks to waste residues and native grasses offers significant opportunities for a range of players, from farmers to biotechnology firms, and from project developers to investors.[1]

As of 2013, the first commercial-scale plants to produce cellulosic biofuels have begun operating. Multiple pathways for the conversion of different biofuel feedstocks are being used. In the next few years, the cost data of these technologies operating at commercial scale, and their relative performance, will become available. Lessons learnt will lower the costs of the industrial processes involved.[2]


  • Cellulosic ethanol production 1
  • Commercialization by country 2
    • Australia 2.1
    • Brazil 2.2
    • Canada 2.3
    • China 2.4
    • Denmark 2.5
    • Germany 2.6
    • India 2.7
    • Italy 2.8
    • Japan 2.9
    • Norway 2.10
    • Russia 2.11
    • Spain 2.12
    • Sweden 2.13
    • United States 2.14
      • Government support 2.14.1
      • Commercial development 2.14.2
  • Environmental issues 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Cellulosic ethanol production

Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from a diverse array of feedstocks, such as wood pulp from trees or any plant matter. Instead of taking the grain from wheat and grinding that down to get starch and gluten, then taking the starch, cellulosic ethanol production involves the use of the whole crop. This approach should increase yields and reduce the carbon footprint because the amount of energy-intensive fertilisers and fungicides will remain the same, for a higher output of usable material.[3][4]

Commercialization by country


Ethtec is building a pilot plant in Harwood, New South Wales, which uses wood residues as a feedstock.[5][6][7]


GranBio (formerly known as GraalBio) is building a facility projected to produce 82 million litres of cellulosic ethanol per year.[8][9]


In Canada, Iogen Corp. is a developer of cellulosic ethanol process technology. Iogen has developed a proprietary process and operates a demonstration-scale plant in Ontario. The facility has been designed and engineered to process 40 tons of wheat straw per day into ethanol using enzymes made in an adjacent enzyme manufacturing facility. In 2004, Iogen began delivering its first shipments of cellulosic ethanol into the marketplace. In the near term, the company intends to commercialize its cellulose ethanol process by licensing its technology broadly through turnkey plant construction partnerships. The company is currently evaluating sites in the United States and Canada for its first commercial-scale plant.[10]

Lignol Innovations has a pilot plant, which uses wood as a feedstock, in Vancouver.[5]

In March 2009, KL Energy Corporation of South Dakota and Prairie Green Renewable Energy of Alberta announced their intention to develop a cellulosic ethanol plant near Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. The Northeast Saskatchewan Renewable Energy Facility will use KL Energy’s modern design and engineering to produce ethanol from wood waste.[11]


Cellulosic ethanol production currently exists at "pilot" and "commercial demonstration" scale, including a plant in China engineered by SunOpta Inc. and owned and operated by China Resources Alcohol Corporation that is currently producing cellulosic ethanol from corn stover (stalks and leaves) on a continuous, 24-hour-per-day basis.[12]


  • List of U.S. Ethanol Plants
  • Cellulosic Ethanol Path is Paved With Various Technologies
  • The Transition to Second Generation Ethanol
  • USDA & DOE Release National Biofuels Action Plan
  • Commercializing Cellulosic Ethanol
  • Cellulosic ethanol output could "explode"
  • Poet Producing Cellulosic Ethanol on Pilot Scale
  • More U.S. backing seen possible for ethanol plants
  • Shell fuels cellulosic ethanol push with new Codexis deal
  • Enerkem to build cellulosic ethanol plant in U.S.

External links

  1. ^ Pernick, Ron and Wilder, Clint (2007). The Clean Tech Revolution p. 96.
  2. ^ HLPE (2013). "Biofuels and food security" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Mark Kinver. Biofuels look to the next generation BBC News, 18 September 2006.
  4. ^ Cellulosic Ethanol: Not Just Any Liquid Fuel
  5. ^ a b c Decker, Jeff. Going Against the Grain: Ethanol from Lignocellulosics, Renewable Energy World, January 22, 2009. Retrieved on February 1, 2009.
  6. ^ Ethanol Technologies Limited
  7. ^ Australia funds pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ a b Countdown to Commercialization
  11. ^ Canadian Cellulosic Plant Plans
  12. ^ a b c Cellulosic ethanol
  13. ^ Lisa Gibson. Bioethanol plant in Denmark inaugurated Biomass Magazine, November 19, 2009.
  14. ^ Cellulosic ethanol blend available at filling stations in Denmark Green Car Congress, 28 October 2010.
  15. ^ Denmark - All systems go at world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant
  16. ^ BBF2 - 2nd Grant for Demonstration Plant, Denmark - 2009
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ Denmark - Maabjerg Energy Concept
  19. ^ BUTALCO to produce first amounts of bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass
  20. ^ Kris Bevill (April 12, 2011). "World’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant breaks ground in Italy". Ethanol Producer Magazine. 
  21. ^ Japan firms look to develop cellulosic ethanol
  22. ^ Honda Building Cellulosic Ethanol Research Facility
  23. ^ Kris Bevill. Pilot-scale cellulosic plant opens in Norway Ethanol Producer Magazine, November 2010.
  24. ^ [4]
  25. ^ American interest in SEKAB’s cellulosic ethanol technology
  26. ^ Feasibility Study for Co-Locating and Integrating Ethanol Production Plants from Corn Starch and Lignocellulosic Feedstocks: A Joint Study Sponsored by U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Energy January 2005, p. 1.
  27. ^ Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008
  28. ^ Biofuels Can Provide Viable, Sustainable Solution To Reducing Petroleum Dependence, Study Shows
  29. ^ Bevill, Kris (January 20, 2011). "USDA approves loan guarantees for 3 cellulosic projects". Ethanol Producer Magazine. 
  30. ^ Matthew L. Wald (July 6, 2011). "U.S. Backs Project to Produce Fuel From Corn Waste". The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2011. The Energy Department plans to provide a $105 million loan guarantee for the expansion of an ethanol factory in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that intends to make motor fuel from corncobs, leaves and husks. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ Gardner, Timothy (February 19, 2009). "TABLE-Open and planned US cellulosic ethanol plants". Reuters. 
  33. ^ a b Building Cellulose
  34. ^ "Permit clears way for Abengoa plant in Hugoton." The Garden City Telegraph. September 21, 2011
  35. ^ "Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Planned for Mississippi." Automotive Fleet. October 19, 2009.
  36. ^ "BlueFire Renewable Creates 52 Jobs as Site Preparation Continues on Fulton, MS Project" Biofuels Journal. December 2, 2010
  37. ^ , July 2008Ethanol Producers Magazine"Anaerobic Organisms Key to Coskata's Rapid Rise" in . Retrieved July 28, 2008.
  38. ^ Michelle Krebs. "Coskata Fires Up First 'Flex' Ethanol Plant, in Pennsylvania" Edmunds Auto Observer. October 19, 2009
  39. ^ "DuPont breaks ground at 30 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility". Ethanol Producer Magazine. November 30, 2012. Retrieved December 15, 2012. 
  40. ^ Suzanne Schmidt. "Alabama town partners with Gulf Coast Energy" Biomass Magazine. August 1, 2008.
  41. ^ POET Further Commits to Cellulosic Ethanol
  42. ^ Iowa gives final approval to Poet's cellulosic ethanol plant
  43. ^
  44. ^ Matthew L. Wald (July 6, 2011). "U.S. Backs Project to Produce Fuel From Corn Waste". The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2011. 
  45. ^ Ethanol From Switch Grass Deemed Feasible
  46. ^ "Grass gas" shows promise as super efficient, clean fuel


See also

Critics such as Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture David Pimentel and University of California at Berkeley engineer Tad Patzek question the likelihood of environmental, energy, or economic benefits from cellulosic ethanol technology from non-waste.[45][46]

According to US Department of Energy studies conducted by the Argonne National Laboratory of the University of Chicago, cellulosic ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 85% over reformulated gasoline. By contrast, starch ethanol (e.g., from corn), which usually uses natural gas to provide energy for the process, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 18% to 29% over gasoline.[12]

Cellulosic ethanol and grain-based ethanol are, in fact, the same product, but many scientists believe cellulosic ethanol production has distinct environmental advantages over grain-based ethanol production. On a life-cycle basis, ethanol produced from agricultural residues or dedicated cellulosic crops has significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and a higher sustainability rating than ethanol produced from grain.[10]

Environmental issues

Cellulosic Ethanol Plants in the U.S.[5][32][33]
(Operational or under construction)
Company Location Feedstock Capacity (million gal/year) Began Production Type
Abengoa Bioenergy Hugoton, KS Wheat straw 25 - 30 [33][34] est. late 2013 Commercial
American Process, Inc Alpena, MI Wood chips 1.0 Commercial
BlueFire Ethanol Irvine, CA Multiple sources 3.9 [35] Commercial
BlueFire Ethanol Fulton, MS Multiple sources 19 [36] Commercial
Coskata, Inc. Madison, Pennsylvania Multiple sources 0.04 [37] October 2009 [38] Semi-commercial
DuPont Nevada, IA Corn stover 30[39] est. 2014 Commercial
Fulcrum BioEnergy Reno, NV Municipal solid waste 10 est. end of 2013 Commercial
Gulf Coast Energy Livingston, AL Wood waste 0.3 [40] before 2008 Demonstration
KL Energy Corp. Upton, WY Wood waste
Mascoma Kinross, MI Wood waste 20 Commercial
POET LLC[41][42] Emmetsburg, IA Corn stover 20 - 25 Sept. 2014[43] Commercial
POET LLC[44] Scotland, SD Corn stover 0.03 2008 Pilot

The cellulosic ethanol industry in the United States developed some new commercial-scale plants in 2008. Plants totaling 12 million liters (3.17 million gal) per year were operational, and an additional 80 million liters (21.13 million gal.) per year of capacity - in 26 new plants - was under construction. (For comparison the estimated US petroleum consumption for all uses was about 816 million gal/day in 2008.[31])

Commercial development

In January 2011, the USDA approved $405 million in loan guarantees through the 2008 Farm Bill to support the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol at three facilities owned by Coskata, Enerkem and INEOS New Planet BioEnergy. The projects represent a combined 73 million US gallons (280,000 m3) per year production capacity and will begin producing cellulosic ethanol in 2012. The USDA also released a list of advanced biofuel producers who will receive payments to expand the production of advanced biofuels.[29] In July 2011, the US Department of Energy gave in $105 million in loan guarantees to POET for a commercial-scale plant to be built Emmetsburg, Iowa.[30]

Using a newly developed tool known as the "Biofuels Deployment Model", Sandia researchers have determined that 21 billion US gallons (79,000,000 m3) of cellulosic ethanol could be produced per year by 2022 without displacing current crops. The Renewable Fuels Standard, part of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, calls for an increase in biofuels production to 36 billion US gallons (140,000,000 m3) a year by 2022.[28]

In May 2008, Congress passed a new farm bill that will accelerate the commercialization of advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 provides for grants covering up to 30% of the cost of developing and building demonstration-scale biorefineries for producing "advanced biofuels," which essentially includes all fuels that are not produced from corn kernel starch. It also allows for loan guarantees of up to $250 million for building commercial-scale biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels.[27]

The US Federal government is actively promoting the development of ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks as an alternative to conventional petroleum transportation fuels. For example, programs sponsored by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL), as well as by universities and private industry. Engineering and construction companies and operating companies are generally conducting the engineering work.[26]

Government support

The US government actively supports the development and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol through a variety of mechanisms. In the first decade of the 21st century, a lot of companies announced plans to build commercial cellulosic ethanol plants, but most of those plans eventually fell apart, and many of the small companies went bankrupt. By today (2012), there are many demonstration plants throughout the country, and handful of commercial-scale plants which are in operation or close to it. With the market for cellulosic ethanol in the United States projected to continue growing in the coming years, the outlook for this industry is good.

United States

SEKAB has developed an industrial process for production of ethanol from biomass feed-stocks, including wood chips and sugar cane bagasse. The development work is being carried out at an advanced pilot plant in Örnsköldsvik, and has sparked international interest. The technology will be gradually scaled up to commercial production in a new breed of bio-refineries from 2013 to 2015.[25]


Abengoa continues to invest heavily in the necessary technology for bringing cellulosic ethanol to market. Utilizing process and pre-treatment technology from SunOpta Inc., Abengoa is building a 5 million US gallons (19,000 m3) cellulosic ethanol facility in Spain and have recently entered into a strategic research and development agreement with Dyadic International, Inc. (AMEX: DIL), to create new and better enzyme mixtures which may be used to improve both the efficiencies and cost structure of producing cellulosic ethanol.[12]


A commercial factory converting wood (50% softwood + 50% hardwood) into Ethanol is in operation in Northern Russia, the city of Kirov, since 1972 and is still profitable. As side products the company, Kirov Biochemical Works, is offering dry fodder yeast (20 tons/month) and Lignin. To install equipment for drying and burning Lignin, both fresh and accumulated in the landfill, for steam and electricity, a bank loan of $200 million was recently secured.[24]


In October 2010, Norway-based cellulosic ethanol technology developer Weyland commenced production at its 200,000 liter (approximately 53,000 gallon) pilot-scale facility in Bergen, Norway. The plant will demonstrate the company’s acid hydrolysis production process, paving the way for a commercial-scale project. The company also plans to market its technology worldwide.[23]


In March 2009, Honda Motor announced an agreement for the construction of a new cellulosic ethanol research facility in Japan. The new Kazusa-branch facility of the Honda Fundamental Technology Research Center will be built within the Kazusa Akademia Park, in Kisarazu, Chiba. Construction is scheduled to begin in April 2009, with the aim to begin operations in November 2009.[22]

Nippon Oil Corporation and other Japanese manufacturers including Toyota Motor Corporation plan to set up a research body to develop cellulose-derived biofuels. The consortium plans to produce 250,000 kilolitres (1.6 million barrels) per year of bioethanol by March 2014, and produce bioethanol at 40 yen ($0.437) per litre (about $70 a barrel) by 2015.[21]


Italy-based Mossi & Ghisolfi Group broke ground for its 13 million US gallons (49,000 m3) per year cellulosic ethanol facility in Crescentino in northwestern Italy on April 12, 2011. The project will be the largest cellulosic ethanol project in the world, 10 times larger than any of the currently operating demonstration-scale facilities. The plant is "expected to become operational in 2012 and will use a variety of locally sourced feedstocks, beginning with wheat straw and Arundo donax, a perennial giant cane".[20]


Cellulosic ethanol production currently exists at "pilot" scale, with efforts being made on utilization of waste lignocellulosic biomass for ethanol production. Pilot scale studies for utilization of pine needles and Lantana weed undertaken at Cellulose and Paper Division, Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, India.


The biofuel company Butalco has recently signed a research and development contract with Hohenheim University. The Institute of Fermentation Technology within the Department of Food Science and Biotechnology at Hohenheim University has been concerned with questions on the production of bioethanol for almost 30 years. The focus in recent years has been on the improvement of the material, energy and life cycle assessment of the production of ethanol. Special interest to BUTALCO is the use of the newly built pilot plant, which is equipped with a safety class 1 approved fermentation room with 4 x 1.5 m³ fermenters. The concept of the plant allows both starch and lignocellulosic based raw materials to be processed. The collaboration will allow BUTALCO to optimise its C5 sugar fermenting and butanol producing yeast strains on a technical scale and produce first amounts of bioethanol from lignocellulose. The whole process of the production of biofuel from the choice of cellulosic biomass feedstock to the conversion into sugars and fermentation through to the purification will be optimised under industrial conditions.[19]


Commercial or experimental Cellulosic Ethanol Plants in Denmark[15] [16] [17] [18]
(Operational or under construction)
Company Location Feedstock Yearly amount Operational
Biogasol Bornholm Wheat straw 5 mill litre 2012
Ensted-værket Aabenraa Wheat straw ? mill litre 2013
Inbicon owned by Dong Energy Zealand Wheat straw 5.4 mill litre 2009
Maabjerg Energy Concept owned by Dong Energy Maabjerg Wheat straw 50-70 mill litre ??2013

Since October 2010, an E5 blend of 95% gasoline and 5% cellulosic ethanol blend has been available at 100 filling stations across Denmark. Distributed by Statoil, the Bio95 2G mixture uses ethanol derived from wheat straw collected on Danish fields after harvest and produced by Inbicon (a div. of DONG Energy), using enzyme technology from Novozymes.[14]


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