A bioenergy producer said on Wednesday that it produced mass quantities of ethanol from waste and nonfood matter, a development that could have a significant impact on the fuel industry and the environment.
Ineos Bio said it is now producing cellulosic ethanol at commercial scale and will be in position to sell its products to its local market beginning as soon as August. The Switzerland based company projects that its new plant will produce 8 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, all from vegetative waste and garbage.
The company, which has offices in North America, said that its use of gasification and fermentation technology to convert bio waste into bioethanol and renewable electricity is a breakthrough and that it is the first company to do so on a commercially viable scale. The company said that the new process takes minutes compared to the days that earlier technologies required.
"We are producing commercial quantities of bioethanol from vegetative and wood waste, and at the same time exporting power to the local community -- a world first," said Ineos Bio CEO Peter Williams.
Williams said the company wants the system to help solve waste disposal issues and provide sustainable value to communities that implement the technology. A company spokesperson said residents will be able to take their yard waste directly to its Vero Beach, Fla., facility.
"The ability to divert waste materials from communities by converting them into competitively priced renewable fuel and power offers an excellent value proposition," Williams said.
THE POLITICS BEHIND POWER
This advancement will prove crucial to the energy industry because if ethanol fuel can be produced at reasonable cost from abundant nonfood sources, it could displace fuel made from crude oil, in which case more of the world's oil and carbons could remain in the ground and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The company developed the technology at its Indian River County BioEnergy Center near Vero Beach, with the help of a $50 million U.S. Department of Energy cost-matching grant awarded in 2009. The $130 million plant is a joint venture between parent company, chemical giant Ineos Group Ltd., and the Florida operation of California's New Planet Energy. The project sourced more than 90 percent of its equipment from U.S. manufacturers in 10 states. Once fully built and running, the plant will provide at least 60 full-time jobs and have a $4 million payroll.
The new plant, built at the site where Ocean Spray Cranberries once produced grapefruit juice, will be permitted to utilize municipal garbage for bioethanol production beginning in 2014 under the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard.
"Current efforts to destabilize the program are short-sighted and motivated solely by the oil refining industry's desire to block competition and consumer choice at the pump," Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Industrial & Environmental division of Biotechnology Industry Organization, said. "If Congress does what the oil refining industry is asking and repeals or revises the RFS at this critical juncture, it will strangle the advanced biofuels baby in the cradle."
The group's website said that it represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, and state biotechnology centers across the U.S. and abroad. It praised Ineos Bio's announcement and said that the bioenergy industry has already invested more than $5 billion over the past six years to commercialize this type of technology, and investors are ready to commit more.
"If there was ever a time when Congress needed to keep the RFS in place it is now, when the advanced biofuels industry is reaching these milestones," Erickson said. "When oil refiners attack the RFS, they are attacking American ingenuity and innovation in order to keep their stranglehold on American fuel consumers."
Malik Singleton covers manufacturing and other economic news. His previous roles were with City Limits, TIME.com, Black Enterprise and PCMag.com. He is an adjunct at CUNY's...