How to Get to $1 a Gallon Ethanol

The CEO of Coskata claims they will be able to make ethanol for $1 a gallon or less in the near future.

The Green Tech Blog reports on a meeting with Coskata’s William Roe where he explained how this will happen.

CoskataRoe explains that Coskata combines both biological and thermochemical processing and can use a wide variety of feedstocks, from wood chips, weeds and non-food crops like miscanthus, to even human waste and carbon-heavy garbage like tires.

Coskata, which has received an investment from General Motors, also makes fuel from the lignin in biomass. Some companies making ethanol from strictly biological processes can’t use lignin to make fuel.

“You can imagine biorefineries in every single state. This is an enormously efficient process,” Roe said. “We don’t need ‘eurekas’ anymore. We think it comes down to execution.”

In basic terms, Coskata’s process converts all the different feedstocks into synthetic gases, then feeds it to microbes that convert it to liquid fuels.

Coskata plans to make a formal announcement later this month about its 40,000 gallons a year demonstration facility which is already under construction at an undisclosed location.

Duel Fuel Strategy for Gulf

GulfGulf Ethanol Corporation is pursuing a dual biofuel development strategy focused on processing feedstocks for ethanol in the U.S. and manufacturing biodiesel in Central America.

Company officials say they will mainly focus on using its technology to develop non-food feedstocks for ethanol manufacturers in the United States. In Central America, Gulf will utilize feedstocks, such as palm oil, for the production of biodiesel.

“Alternative energy is developing with a strong regional focus,” noted JT Cloud, Gulf’s President. “In Europe it is solar and biodiesel, in Brazil it is ethanol, in the U.S. it has been wind and ethanol. We are tailoring our technology to fit the feedstocks of the regions where we expect to develop operations.”

Demo Cellulosic Plant Enters Start-up Phase

Verenium Corporation has announced that its demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Jennings, Louisiana has entered the “startup” phase.

Verenium PlantAccording to officials, the site has been electronically energized and the turnover of individual systems to start-up and operating teams has begun so that the functional capabilities of each system can be tested. In total, more than forty separate systems will be evaluated over approximately the next three months.

Verenium CEO Carlos Riva said in a statement, “The next several months will be critical in terms of scaling our process and technology and garnering the insights needed to begin construction on our first commercial facility — which will truly be a landmark for the emerging next-generation biofuels industry.”

Cellulosic Ethanol Fueled Vette Makes History

Corvette Racing made motorsports history Saturday, scoring the first victory on 85 percent cellulosic ethanol racing fuel (E85R) in American Le Mans Series competition.

Corvette in St. PeteDrivers Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta won their second consecutive class victory on the waterfront street circuit in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“This was our first race running cellulosic E85 ethanol, and we had great performance and great fuel efficiency,” Gavin said. “We could have done the entire race on one pit stop. There were question marks about that from some people, but it’s been proven it’s a great fuel to run and it’s doing a bit for the green issue.”

The reigning champions won the GT1 division in the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg with a 4.754-second margin of victory in their No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R over Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R.

“I think we demonstrated not only to our fellow competitors but also to the world of racing that E85R is a viable and powerful fuel,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We’re very pleased with how it turned out.”

Photo Credit: Dan Boyd, American Le Mans Series

Green Racing Showcases Ethanol

St. Petersburg, Florida will be the site of the greenest racing event in history this weekend when both the IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series will compete on the streets in the Honda Grand Prix and Acura Sports Car Challenge. This is the second year that the IndyCar Series is racing on 100 percent ethanol and the first year the American Le Mans Series is offering cellulosic E85 racing ethanol to its teams.

Doug Robinson, executive director of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), which is the sanctioning body of the American Le Mans Series, says allowing the use of 85 percent cellulosic ethanol in that racing venue is part of their “green racing” platform that helps test alternative fuels and create public awareness.

“In rolling out that green racing strategy, the first step was to look at the renewable fuels and the greenhouse gas emissions,” Robinson said.

As a result, Robinson says, they set into motion a plan to develop a high performance, high octane, gasoline-based racing fuel as a baseline and allow alternative fuels into the series.

“Our base fuel has ten percent ethanol, much like many of the pumps that you buy fuel for your road car,” he said. “Then this year we started with an E85 fuel and we aligned ourselves with the first company to be producing second generation, cellulosic ethanol made from wood waste from the Black Hills forest.”

Ethanol Semi in St PeteThat company is KL Process Design Group of South Dakota, which has been contracted by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, the leader in bringing “green” fuels to motorsports, to provide cellulosic E85 racing fuel (E85R) for Corvette Racing.

The Team Ethanol transporter carrying the #17 Team Ethanol Indy Car arrived at St. Pete earlier this week, fresh off a 7th place finish in last week’s season opener under the lights in Homestead.

Team Ethanol driver Ryan Hunter-Reay is a big believer in ethanol and using it in racing to prove performance and environmental benefits. “Racing is the forefront of what goes on in the automotive market,” Hunter-Reay said. “So, it fits for racing to be going in this direction.”

This weekend’s American Le Mans Series and IndyCar Series races highlighting ethanol will be broadcast globally. ABC will televise the one-hour, 55-minute Acura Sports Car Challenge starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on April 5. The IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix at 2:30 pm ET on April 6 will be broadcast on ESPN.

(Photo credit Steve Snoddy, Indy Racing League)

Partnership for Cellulosic Technology

ConocoISUThe U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has entered into partnership with ConocoPhillips and Iowa State University to identify promising cellulosic biomass conversion technologies for the future. The collaboration will bring three independently established programs together to help identify the most efficient and cost-effective methods for making liquid transportation fuels from plants.

NREL“Research cooperation among government, industry and academia is needed to efficiently address the many questions about how to find the best ways to convert biomass to liquid transportation fuels,” said Tom Foust, technology manager for NREL’s National Bioenergy Center.

Each party is providing its own time and resources and the collaboration is expected to produce an initial report by January 2009.

Cellulosic Firm Surpasses $100 Million in Funding

Range FuelsRange Fuels has announced that it has received private financing totaling over $100 million to complete the construction of the first phase of its commercial cellulosic ethanol plant located near the town of Soperton, Georgia. The first phase of construction for the Soperton Plant is targeted to produce approximately 20 million gallons of ethanol and mixed alcohols per year and is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Range Fuels uses a thermo-chemical process compared to most competing cellulosic processes which use biochemical technology.

The company will use woody biomass in the form of sustainably harvested forest trees and waste materials from Georgia forests.

Corvette Ready to Run on Cellulosic E85

CorvetteThe Corvette Racing team will make its debut race on cellulosic E85 in the upcoming American LeMans Series Acura Sports Car Challenge in St. Petersburg, Florida April 4-5. GM Racing program manager Doug Fehan says they are very excited about it.

“GM is the leader in the production of flex fuel vehicles, we produce over 2.5 million and we are the largest producer in the world,” Fehan said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “Corvette has always tried to position itself as a leader in GM and within the racing community and this was a chance for Corvette again to demonstrate that leadership.”

Fehan says they had some challenges perfecting the fuel cell for using E85 in the race car, which kept them from using the fuel in the ALMS Twelve Hours of Sebring but they have resolved that issue. Comparing E85 to gasoline, Fehan says there is a difference in fuel mileage “but from a power and performance standpoint, it’s virtually the same.”

Johnny O'ConnellThe Corvette Racing C6.R driven by Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows captured ninth overall and first in the 12 hours of Sebring in Florida, the season opener for the American Le Mans Series.

O’Connell agrees that performance with the cellulosic E85 is identical. “There has been absolutely no loss in performance at all (running the E85 in the Corvette) it’s as amazing as it’s always been,” he says. Because of the lower fuel mileage he says they do have to carry a little more fuel which makes the car a little heavier at the start, but “we’ll make that up on the other side” when the car is lighter.

O’Connell is especially pleased with the environmental benefits of running E85. “We all want to be as green as we possibly can and recognize that we do need to change things to keep racing in our culture as we go forward,” said O’Connell.

Corvette Racing has a technical partnership with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council to spotlight E85 in the ALMS, and the cellulosic E85 for the race is being provided by KL Process Design Group of South Dakota. Two other teams – the Intersport Racing Lola and the Drayson-Barwell Racing Aston Martin – are also running on E85 in the ALMS series.

Listen to part of the press conference here:

Orion Ethanol Diversifies

Orion Ethanol of Kansas has acquired a corn fructose wet milling facility located in Texas from Dimmitt Ethanol.

Orion EthanolOrion plans to convert the facility into a fully integrated renewable fuels campus in three phases over 3 years. The first phase will convert the corn fructose wet milling facility into a 60 million gallon per year ethanol plant and 10 million gallon per year edible oil extraction facility. Phases two and three will consist of adding a 10 million gallon per year cellulose-to-ethanol process, a 12 million gallon per year biodiesel plant, a 25,000 ton per year yeast plant, and a 60-75 Megawatt wind and biomethane based electrical generation facility. The asset purchase brings with it approximately 1,200 surrounding acres and a wind lease agreement.

Orion chairman of the board Patrick Barker says, “Dimmitt Ethanol’s wet milling facility is the ideal platform upon which we plan to develop an integrated renewable fuels campus that will include production of cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, biomethane, and wind power. This project will help to horizontally diversify Orion across the energy spectrum, building upon Orion Ethanol’s past success acquiring and developing our 55 million gallon per year dry-mill ethanol plant in Pratt, Kansas.”

Georgia Innovations Focus on Bioenergy

Georgia’s Agriculture Innovation Center (AgIC) recently received nearly $200,000 for matching research grants to help support six agricultural-based businesses. Five of those six are focused on bioenergy.

GeorgiaBill Boone, director of the AgIC, says the focus on bioenergy is not surprising. “Georgia is among the leaders in the bioenergy revolution. In order to stay in the forefront, we must continue to expand our bioenergy research, especially in the areas of alternative feedstocks.”

Companies receiving the grants include Alterra Bioenergy, a biodiesel manufacturer headquartered in Macon which is researching the dry land weed, camelina as an alternative biodiesel feedstock.
Also researching an alternative biofuel feedstock is AgStrong, a small, family-owned agricultural engineering firm in Watkinsville.

US Ethanol, a company that currently uses the waste sugars from recycled cola products to commercially produce ethanol in its Cordele plant, wants to expand its feedstocks by using waste sugars from Florida and Louisiana sugar plants.

Fram Renewable Fuels, headquartered in Savannah, is studying the use of wood pellets to heat poultry houses.

Finally, Synergy Parametrics, an Athens-based engineering firm, will use the grant to identify a more efficient fermentation process for cellulosic ethanol while simultaneously reducing the amount of acetic acid from the process.

Listen to an interview with Bill Boone by Randall Weiseman of Southeast AgNet:

Florida Plant Seeks Zoning Change

A Florida sugar company is seeking a zoning change in Palm Beach county to allow it to produce cellulosic ethanol.

Florida CrystalsAccording to an article in the Palm Beach Post, Florida Crystals Corp needs a zoning change that would allow cellulosic-ethanol plants – factories that produce ethanol from plant waste rather than corn – to be built in areas already zoned for industry.

“There’s an ethanol train coming,” said Gaston Cantens, vice president of sugar producer Florida Crystals Corp.

“Without language in the county’s zoning code that allows ethanol to be an end product, we are not even in the game,” Cantens said Tuesday during a meeting with the Palm Beach Post editorial board.

A demonstration cellulosic-ethanol plant is slated to be built by the University of Florida at Florida Crystals’ Okeelanta mill and refinery south of South Bay. That doesn’t require a zoning change, Cantens said. The plant, which is expected to produce 1 million to 2 million gallons a year, is being funded by a $20 million state grant awarded to the University of Florida this past June.

Cellulosic Venture Capitol

Range FuelsRange Fuels has been held up as the poster child for commercializing cellulosic ethanol and the company has now raised $100 million to build a 100-million-gallon-a-year plant in Georgia. Range Fuels has also received a US Department of Energy grant and other venture funding in an effort to get the plant up and producing at least 20 million gallons of ethanol from wood this year.

NYT Business
also reports that another cellulosic company, Mascoma, raised $50 million in a third round of venture funding.

The latest funding for Range Fuels means that at least three start-ups focused on cellulosic ethanol have now amassed financing greater than $100 million.

Global Marketing of Cellulosic Technology

South Dakota-based KL Process Design Group has signed an agreement with O2 Diesel Europe to market their cellulosic process globally.

KL Process DesignAccording to the companies, the agreement secures O2Diesel’s rights to expand KL’s cellulosic to ethanol fuel production technology in Europe, India, Russia and other rapidly developing global markets.

KL announced the start up of the first commercial small scale wood waste ethanol plant in August 2007. The plant, located in Wyoming, was engineered and constructed by KL Process Design Group, which also operates it and recently began supplying cellulosic ethanol for the E85 used by some cars in the American LeMans Series.

O2 DieselAccording to Alan Rae, CEO of O2Diesel Corporation, “We believe KL has developed a commercially ready and environmentally friendly process and has a business model that can be easily replicated, which will provide the opportunity for rapid, wide-scale distribution of affordable fuel grade ethanol on a carbon positive basis. Additionally, the KL process provides the potential for multiple natural waste feedstocks, which supports global efforts to move renewable fuel production away from traditional agricultural feedstocks. Access to competitively priced ethanol from second generation production will further enhance the environmental benefits of O2Diesel as we expand our European and other markets.”

Ethanol Pump Promo for Sebring

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council helped the American LeMans Series kick off the 56th running of the Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring this weekend with a pump promotion offering E10 for $2.56. A total of 2566 gallons of the fuel were sold at the local Gate Petroleum station in Sebring, Florida.

EPIC Sebring Pump PromoSeveral race car drivers were on hand to pump gas and sign autographs including Joel Feinberg and Chris Hall both of Primetime Race Group racing the GT2 Team Dodge Viper Competition Coupe.

The American Le Mans Series has chosen E10 as an “official ethanol-enriched fuel” of the series, the first time a street legal renewable fuel has been used in any endurance format. Also approved by the series is cellulosic E85, which will run in some of the cars this season.

Meanwhile, Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson this week announced new fuel quality standards for gasoline blended with ethanol.

These changes specifically target selected fuel quality standards for gasoline blended with 10 percent or less ethanol. This will allow even more stations in Florida to sell ethanol-blended fuel.

“Sugar Eater” Holds Biofuel Promise

Two University of Maryland scientists believe a strain of bacteria that decomposes everything from algae to newspapers to crab shells could help produce cheaper fuel. Found on marsh grass in the Chesapeake Bay, this organism could soon be used to generate ethanol from cellulosic sources such as waste paper, brewing byproducts, leftover agriculture products, including straw, corncobs and husks, and energy crops such as switchgrass..

ZymetisA process using the bacteria, developed by University of Maryland professors Steve Hutcheson and Ron Weiner, is the foundation of their incubator company Zymetis. When fully operational, the Zymetis process could potentially lead to the production of 75 billion gallons a year of carbon-neutral ethanol.

The bacterium is called Saccarophagus degradans, which translates as “sugar eater,” because it has the largest known concentration of enzymes that eat carbohydrates.