How’s that? Cellulosic fuels now worth $4.06/gallon, up 15% in 2 mos

August 8, 2017 |

The value of cellulosic fuels has reached $4.06 per gallon in the California market. That’s real-world, today, including the energy and the low-carbon attributes, and not based on speculation. The value has risen 15.1 percent in the past 56 days. The soaring fuel values are prompting several companies to substantively expand or re-evaluate plans for cellulosic ethanol.

(Note to readers: Owing to an editing error, we had the wrong cellulosic fuel value in an earlier version of this story, though the percentage increase is correct, and the values are now corrected and thanks to our eagle-eyed readers who spotted the error!)

Check out daily fuel values – the New Digest Daily Fuel Value Calculator

You can check out real-world fuel values, and create “what-if” scenarios — for cellulosic ethanol as well as biomass-based diesel fuels with our new Fuel Value Calculator, which is here.

The Fuel Value Calculator takes into account the energy content of the fuel, plus the carbon value as expressed through various carbon-reducing authorities such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and the California Low Carbon Standard. You can check out current values, or put in your own assumptions on future value — and the Calculator does all the calculation work for you to come up with a real-world or scenario value.

Aemetis starts cellulosic ethanol production

Word has arrived that Aemetis is now producing cellulosic ethanol from orchard waste, utilizing technologies from Aemetis, LanzaTech and InEnTec. The plant is a continuously operating demonstration facility located at InEnTec’s Technology Center in Richland, Washington that is processing various feedstocks and demonstrating the integration of technologies to be used in the full-scale operating biorefinery.

Earlier this week, we reported that Aemetis signed a Master Agreement with key exclusive rights for the use of an advanced gasification technology from InEnTec, Inc. of Richland, Washington to produce cellulosic ethanol. The gasification technology complements Aemetis’ current license with LanzaTech for syngas-to-ethanol conversion, providing Aemetis with a complete technology solution to produce locally sourced, low carbon cellulosic ethanol.

“The plant converts waste orchard wood and nutshells from California’s Central Valley into cellulosic ethanol,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis. “California has more than one million acres of almond, walnut, and pistachio trees that currently produce over 1.6 million tons of waste wood and shells per year.”

Yields and other data from operation of the integrated demonstration unit will be provided to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of completing the Phase II loan guarantee process under the USDA 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program. Aemetis is building a 10 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol production facility near the existing Aemetis 60 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Keyes, California.

Cellulosic ethanol deployment update

Also this week, we reported that Pacific Ethanol plans to install cellulosic ethanol bolt-on technology at its Magic Valley ethanol plant as it has done at two of its California facilities. EPA approval for cellulosic D3 RIN production is expected by the end of the year. Cellulosic production at the Madera, California plant is also expected to be online by year’s end. That facility’s new Whitefox industrial-scale membrane system along with a $1 million solar power plant are expected to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel produced to secure a premium under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Last month, we reported that Raizen plans to scale up its cellulosic ethanol technology five-fold over the next two years to 40 million liters by 2018, a move that will make the fuel competitive with conventional ethanol. The Piracicaba facility is set to produce 14 million liters this year following its first 7 million liters produced last year. The company said seven or eight of its 24 conventional ethanol plants could receive bolt-on upgrades of the cellulosic technology.

In June, we reported that Edeniq Inc., a cellulosic technology company, and Siouxland Energy Cooperative recently announced that the U.S. EPA approved Siouxland Energy’s registration of its 60 MMgy corn ethanol plant for generation of D3 RINs from cellulosic ethanol. Siouxland Energy is the fourth plant to receive a cellulosic ethanol registration from the EPA after deploying Edeniq’s Pathway Technology. Edeniq’s registered customers now total 400 MGPY of nameplate ethanol capacity and are averaging 1 percent cellulosic ethanol.

Last month, we reported that Alliance Bio-Products received approval from the USDA Office of Rural Development for the collateral purchase of the 8 million gallon cellulosic ethanol plant originally built by INEOS New Planet Energy JV, and operated intermittently between 2012 and 2015 as INEOS sought to stabilize and demonstrate the technology, hoping to build a chain of cellulosic ethanol facilities around the world. Alliance said that its patented CTS process allows it to produce biofuels for less than $1 per gallon that have 85-95% less greenhouse gases than petroleum-based products, and added that it expects to begin production at the plant by summer of 2018, potentially generating $25 million in EBITDA and then will look to double capacity to 16 MMGY, potentially generating $54 million in EBITDA in 2020 before maximizing capacity of 34 MMGY, generating $112 million in 2023.

Last December, we reported that a district bankruptcy court has given Synata Bio the green light to buy Abengoa Bioenergy’s Hugoton cellulosic ethanol facility for $48.5 million despite Shell’s stalking horse bid of $26 million. Synata Bio submitted a $27.05 million qualified bid on Nov. 18, so when both companies went to auction on Nov. 21, Shell stopped at $40.75 million, leaving Synata Bio the winner. The deal that includes the plant, equipment, intellectual property for the production process and 400 acres is set to close on Dec. 5.

Cellulosic biobutanol R&D update

Last month, we reported that Praj Industries Ltd and Gevo, Inc. unveiled a new commercial opportunity in renewable bioproducts, jointly announcing that Gevo’s proprietary isobutanol technology will now be available for licensing to processors of sugar cane juice and molasses. This follows on the back of Praj’s development work, adapting Gevo’s technology to sugar cane and molasses feedstocks.

The goal of these agreements was for Praj to adapt Gevo’s isobutanol technology to using non-corn based sugars and lignocellulose feedstocks. The process technology development was performed at Matrix, Praj’s R&D center located in Pune, India.

Praj and Gevo team to adapt isobutanol technology for cellulosic feedstocks

Cellulosic R&D update

Last April, we reported that testing on Clariant’s sunliquid technology has confirmed that the cost per liter of cellulosic ethanol can achieve price competitiveness with sugarcane ethanol prices in Brazil. Clariant’s testing evaluated over 40 containers of sugarcane bagasse and tops & leaves from Brazil at its pilot and precommercial facilities in Germany, and achieved a yield of up to 300 Liters of ethanol per ton of dry bagasse during extended performance runs. Besides excellent yields on both C5 and C6 sugar conversion to cellulosic ethanol, Clariant was able to demonstrate its superior fermentation performance and stability. The Clariant pre-commercial plant has also demonstrated cellulosic ethanol production on agricultural residues such as corn stover and cereal straw for the North American and European markets.

Clariant’s sunliquid technology price competitive with Brazilian sugarcane ethanol

Last month, we reported that scientists using neutron scattering have identified the specifics of an enzyme-catalyzed reaction that could significantly reduce the total amount of enzymes used, improving production processes and lowering costs.

Researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and North Carolina State University used a combination of X-ray and neutron crystallography to determine the detailed atomic structure of a specialized fungal enzyme. A deeper understanding of the enzyme reactivity could also lead to improved computational models that will further guide industrial applications for cleaner forms of energy. Their results are published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

ORNL researchers find way to significantly reduce amount of enzymes used in cellulosic biofuel production

Last August, we reported that Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) Head Engineer Travis Brotherson reported a 26 percent increase in ethanol production after a recently-completed trial. The trial consisted of a combination of Cellerate process technology and Enogen corn. Brotherson said this dramatic increase was achieved by realizing an additional 6 percent yield per bushel from converting kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol, plus a 20 percent throughput increase by combining Cellerate with Enogen. To date, QCCP has produced nearly 5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol via the Cellerate process, which represented 90 percent of total U.S. cellulosic ethanol production (D3 RINs) in the last three years at the time of our report last September.

QCCP says Cellerate process technology and Enogen corn showed 26% ethanol increase

Cellulosic production update

In April, we reported that POET-DSM’s Project Liberty is reaching its production goals after coming online about a year ago with current yields of 70 gallons of cellulosic per ton of corn stover, near its goal of 72 gallons. The company plans to expand its technology to other facilities but not details were given as to timelines or specific facilities for the bolt-on production. POET did caution, however, that discussions about revising the Renewable Fuel Standards add additional risk in the market and could impact those investment decisions.

POET-DSM’s Project Liberty reaching production goals

We have not had a comprehensive update on DuPont’s progress towards steady-state operations at its 30 million gallon facility in Nevada, Iowa — but our latest understanding is that commissioning of all units was completed and work is now underway on process optimization — with the project producing cellulosic ethanol although the volumes have not been yet publicly revealed. The project had its grand opening in October 2015.

DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol plant coming on line at last this month

Feedstock update

In June, we reported that the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative (CSPC) has so far recruited 20% of its 55,000-acre goal to secure the crop residue required for Comet Biorefining’s facility that should be online next year. The Coop has begun a campaign to recruit more members in Lambton County, Huron County, and Chatham-Kent, requiring a one-time investment of C$200 per acre and a C$500 membership fee. Members must join with a minimum of 100 acres of corn stover or wheat straw.

Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative recruiting farmer members to supply Comet

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