Revival! INEOS awards $100 million construction contract for Florida bioenergy center

November 2, 2010 |

In Florida, INEOS New Planet BioEnergy has awarded the EPC contract to build its 8 million gallon per year advanced bioenergy facility in Vero Beach to AMEC of Tucker, GA. The facility will also produce up to 6 MW of renewable power from municipal solid waste and yard and wood residues, enough to power more than 4,000 residences.

INEOS New Planet BioEnergy is a joint venture between INEOS Bio and New Planet Energy, which received a $50 million grant from the DOE last year towards construction of the INEOS New Planet demonstration plant.

The heart of the INEOS Bio technology is a patented anaerobic fermentation step, through which naturally occurring bacteria convert gases derived directly from biomass into ethanol. The INEOS Bio process can produce ethanol and renewable energy from numerous feedstocks, including construction waste and municipal solid waste, forestry and agricultural waste.

Communities marching forward

The new contract, valued at $100 million, will create 175 construction jobs, as well as 50 permanent jobs in the Vero Beach area, which is also home to an Aurora Algae pilot project.

In the UK, INEOS Bio, has completed a detailed feasibility study for a project at the INEOS Seal Sands site in the Tees Valley, which will also produce 8 Mgy of ethanol, as well as up to 3MW of renewable power. The project will utilize 100,000 tonnes per year of household and commercial waste, and would be completed in 2012, creating 350 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs at the new plant. INEOS expects to expand the plant as soon as 2015.

The INEOS BioEnergy Process Technology combines thermochemical and biochemical technologies to achieve energy-efficient and low-cost biofuel production from a wide range of biomass materials, including household and industrial waste. At the heart of the INEOS Bio technology is an anaerobic fermentation step, through which naturally occurring bacteria convert gases derived directly from biomass into ethanol. This ethanol production is integrated with combined heat and power generation.

Communities falling behind

By contrast, on the other side of the Florida yesterday, the city of Sarasota signed a 30-year franchise power contract with FPL Group, which locks the city into a long-term dependence on what currently is a 98 percent mix of fossil fuels. In addition, as much as 97 percent of power being generated from out of state. The deal was sealed when commissioner Terry Turner, a former local Nature Conservancy chairman, backed the 30-year contract with FPL, noting that “It would be wonderful if Sarasota could lead the way, but Sarasota is not an island.”

On the minds of at least two of the three commissioners backing the deal was $5 million in city funds that are provided by “franchise fees” collected by FPL as a part of their utility billing; fears that the funds would be difficult to replace appeared to drive the city into a long-term deal which offered minimal guarantees of a transition towards renewable energy.

Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner and Vice-Mayor Fredd Atkins had opposed the FPL deal, proposing instead to follow up to a dozen Florida municipalities who are buying energy outside of a franchise agreement. Their vision: to give their communities the opportunity to convert more aggressively to renewables as opportunities present themselves.

New opportunities

By contrast, the potential value of bioenergy deals was demonstrated last month in Lake County, Indiana, when three waste hauling companies bid in a range of $13-$14.88 per household per month for waste hauling for residents of the city of Griffith, while ethanol developer Powers Energy of America’s contract with Lake County will cost $4 per household per month. Power Energy is developing its own waste-to-ethanol technology at a Lake County site. Overall, Lake County, which proposes to pay $17.25 per ton for the first 1450 tons per day, and $15.25 for additional tons, estimates it will save up to two-thirds on landfilling costs over the current charges of $45 per ton for landfill.

In Florida, the INEOS project would be expected, at 8 Mgy demonstration volumes, to generate as much as as $19 million in annual revenues, assuming $0.06 per KWh for power and $2.00 per gallon for ethanol. Roughly 5 tons of commercial and municipal solid waste are available per capita – according to figures from the EU . Assuming that as much of 80 percent of that total is recoverable for bioenergy, there would be as much as 40 Mgy in ethanol generation and 30 MW of renewable power available, per 100,000 in population. That’s roughly $95 million in revenue, and it is hard to see how projects serving communities such as Sarasota would not be able to support $5 million in annual benefits to the community – in the form of franchise fees or other offsets such as reduction in MSW collection charges.

The new public-private partnership

Though backed by the DOE to the tune of a $50 million grant aimed at fostering clean energy technologies by assisting in demonstrations that would reduce risks on “first of kind” technologies for future commercialization opportunities, the INEOS project, as well as the experiences of the Powers project, demonstrates in fact that communities have new options, if they are aggressive in seeking them.

The INEOS UK deal structure indicates what is likely to be the preferred route for assembling equity for waste-to-energy projects. Under proposed terms, INEOS will receive a $10.9 million grant towards the $76 million in construction costs. The UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change will provide $6.6 million, while the Regional Development Agency One North East will invest US$4.1 million, of which $2.7 million will come from Tees Valley Industrial Programme funds. The feasibility work on the project was supported by a £2.2m grant from the Regional Development Agency One North East and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

The INEOS BioEnergy Center project, which has already received its major permits and approvals from the State of Florida and the U.S. Government. comes at a time when the region is facing a 16% unemployment rate. The Indian River facility is scheduled to begin construction in 4th quarter of 2010 and begin production in 2012.

As Peter Williams, CEO of INEOS Bio commented:  “We offer a sustainable solution for energy independence which breaks the food-for-fuel chain and provides a plentiful supply of renewable bioenergy for new and developed markets.”

More on INEOS Bio: check out this informative video.

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