Thursday, August 9, 2007

Poet produces ethanol from corncobs

Poet LLC, the largest dry-mill ethanol producer in the United States, announced at the 2007 Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo (FEW) in St. Louis, Mo., that it has produced cellulosic ethanol from corncobs.

By adding cellulosic production to an existing ethanol plant, Poet will be able to produce 11 percent more ethanol from a bushel of corn, 27 percent more from an acre of corn while almost completely eliminating fossil fuel consumption (83 percent) and decreasing water usage by 24 percent. Poet is currently working with biotechnology and enzyme producer Novozymes to demonstrate enzyme feasibility for the technology. Once the process technology becomes commercially viable, Poet intends to license it to other ethanol producers. Jim Sturdevant, who previously worked at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science in Sioux Falls, S.D., will serve as director for the cellulosic ethanol project. In this new position, he will direct the project while coordinating all efforts within Poet to commercialize cellulosic ethanol.

From Checkbiotech

Sticking with cellulosic news, EurekAlert had this yesterday:

Biofuel economics
Production costs of advanced biofuels is similar to grain-ethanol

‘Second generation’ biorefineries – those making biofuel from lignocellulosic feedstocks like straw, grasses and wood – have long been touted as the successor to today’s grain ethanol plants, but until now the technology has been considered too expensive to compete. However, recent increases in grain prices mean that production costs are now similar for grain ethanol and second generation biofuels, according to a paper published in the first edition of Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining.

The switch to second generation biofuels will reduce competition with grain for food and feed, and allow the utilization of materials like straw which would otherwise go to waste. The biorefineries will also be able to use lignocellulosic crops like poplar and switchgrass, which can be grown on land less suitable for farming than traditional row crops. These findings should be a boost to companies hoping to establish themselves in this emerging field.

Two researchers working at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University set out to compare the capital and operating costs of generating fuel from starch and cellulose-containing materials.

They showed that the capital costs for 150 million gallon gasoline equivalent capacity range from around $111 million for a conventional grain ethanol plant to $854 million for an advanced (Fischer Tropsch) plant. The difference in the final cost of the fuel, however, was less severe, being $1.74 for grain ethanol when corn costs $3.00 per bushel and $1.80 for cellulosic biofuel when biomass costs $50 per ton.