INEOS Bio’s Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Fla., is now producing cellulosic ethanol at commercial scale with the first ethanol shipments to be released this month. It is the first facility in the world using advanced bioenergy technology to convert vegetative and wood waste to renewable fuel and electricity, the company said.
The production achievement stems from breakthrough gasification and fermentation technology for conversion of biomass waste, the company said. The biofuels produced in Florida will anchor the new production of cellulosic ethanol under the US Renewable Fuels Standard, according to INEOS Bio.
The BioEnergy Center is a joint venture project between INEOS Bio and New Planet Energy. The facility has already converted several types of waste biomass material into bioethanol, including vegetative and yard waste, and citrus, oak, pine, and pallet wood waste.
It will have an annual output of eight million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and six MW of renewable power. The center is also permitted to use municipal solid waste for bioethanol production during 2014, INEOS Bio said.
Energy secretary Ernest Moniz called the project an important industry benchmark that proves the potential of early-stage investment into innovative technologies. The hybrid technology was originally developed with the support of the department, beginning in the 1990s, DOE said.
The company said it is working to expand the use of the technology. The center will serve as a reference plan for companies and cities interested in licensing the technology for similar facilities.
The project’s gasification-fermentation technology has its roots in a University of Arkansas research project, supported by a $5 million Energy Department investment over fifteen years. The Department’s early support helped this technology obtain a number of patents, with the core intellectual property purchased by INEOS Bio in 2008, DOE said.
In 2009, the $130 million INEOS Bio-New Planet Energy joint venture was awarded a $50 million Energy Department grant to design, construct, commission and operate the Indian River BioEnergy Center, DOE said.
According to the New York Times, the plant had expected to be operational by the end of last year. Among the setbacks was the transportation of methane gas from a nearby landfill to the plant’s boilers. Another problem was its reliance on the electrical grid. When thunderstorms knocked out the power grid, the plant unexpectedly shut down, and it took weeks to get it running again.
Photo credit: INEOS Bio, Indian River BioEnergy Center, Vero Beach, Fla.