Myke's Biofuels Blog: Cellulosic Ethanol is Closer to Reality Than You Might Think
by Myke Feinman, BioFuels Journal Editor
The standing story among ethanol industry producers and suppliers is that cellulosic ethanol is five years awayjust like it was 20 years ago.
That story may no longer hold water.
As we started putting together a list of cellulosic ethanol plants for the January/February issue of BioFuels Journal, we realized there were a lot of pilot/demonstration/commercial cellulosic ethanol plants on the drawing board or under construction.
And while putting it together, one commercial plant went on-line.
When we started this list, we thought there was only a handful.
As our Associate Editor Frank Zaworski did the research for the magazine, he came across a total of 20 plants.
And this week we found one more.
That's 21 cellulosic ethanol plants planned, under construction or in operation, as we speaknine are considered commercial scale by the developers with the rest pilot or demonstration plants.
One is even online nowWestern Biomass Energy KL Process Design Group, Upton, WY.
Does Size Count?
When the recent ethanol construction boom began five years ago, a 40-MMGY plant was a good sized plant. Two years ago, a 60-MMGY ethanol plant was considered large by industry standards.
Today, new starch-based ethanol plants are being constructed at 110 MMGY or more.
On the other hand, the size of the planned cellulosic plants range from less than 1 million gallons per year (MMGY) to 70 MMGY.
KL Process considers its 1.5 MMGY, wood-waste feedstock cellulosic ethanol plant, which went on-line Jan. 29, a commercial operation.
So much for five years away.
The smallest one in the group is a demonstration plant planned by Mascoma Corp. in Rome NY at 500,000 GY.
The largest one, a 70-MMGY plant being built by Gulf Coast Energy in Mossy Head, FL, will utilize wood waste as feedstock.
And speaking of feedstocks, there are more than a handful of different types of feedstocks to be utilized:
SwitchgrassMascoma 5-MMGY demonstration plant in Vonore, TN.
Mixed Biomass2.7-MMGY demonstration plant in Boardman, OR by Pacific Ethanol.
Corn Cobs25-MMGY commercial scale plant planned by POET in Emmetsburg, IA.
Citrus PeelsXethanol Corp./Southeast Biofuels 8-MMGY plant in Auburndale, FL.
Wheat StrawAbengoa's 30-MMGY commercial scale plant under construction in Hugoton, KS.
Corn Stalks and GrassesPure Vision Technology is planning a 2-MMGY pilot plant in Ft. Lupton, CO.
Wood waste is the primary feedstock in eight of the planned cellulosic ethanol plants.
Still Five Years Out?
KL Process' new wood-waste plant demonstrates that cellulosic ethanol is a viable commercial alternative fuel.
Many of these planned commercial plants are expected to start operation in 2009 or 2010.
At the very most, you could say large-scale commercial plants will be on-line by the end of the decade. This is already 2008. That's two years away, not five.
But who's counting?
Thanks for reading, biofuels buffs.
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