ZeaChem Begins Production of Cellulosic Chemicals and Ethanol, Advances Toward Commercialization

March 12, 2013 |

ZeaChem announced that it has produced commercial-grade cellulosic chemicals and ethanol at its 250,000 gallons per year (GPY) biorefinery in Boardman, Ore.

Among the first operational cellulosic biorefineries in the world, this demonstration facility showcases the scalability of ZeaChem’s biorefining process and serves as a key stepping-stone toward large-scale commercial production.

“ZeaChem is developing the first truly-integrated biorefineries for the production of a broad portfolio of economical and sustainable biofuels and bio-based chemicals,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem. “The demonstration plant is fully integrated and operating as we ramp up to full capacity. The start of cellulosic production is a significant milestone for ZeaChem as we demonstrate our highly efficient biorefining technology, develop the first commercial biorefinery project, and expand global development opportunities.”


Similar to a petrochemical refinery that makes multiple fuels and chemicals, ZeaChem’s demonstration facility is employing its C2 (two-carbon atom) platform to produce cellulose-based ethanol and intermediate chemicals such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate. The commercial market potential for all C2 products is $485 billion.

Through relatively simple processing adjustments, the ZeaChem platform technology can create C3 chemicals (three-carbon structure) including propionic acid, ethyl propionate, propanol and propylene. Together, ZeaChem’s C2 and C3 products address a collection of end markets of more $1 trillion.

Technology & Feedstock

Unlike conventional biorefineries, ZeaChem can convert nearly any non-food biomass into fuels and chemicals. This provides ZeaChem with the opportunity to source feedstock locally and inexpensively. The demonstration facility will receive its feedstock from nearby-GreenWood Resources’ tree farms and other local agricultural residue processors.


As a supplier of competitively-priced products with significant environmental benefits, ZeaChem has formed strategic partnerships with companies that include GreenWood Resources, Valero and Chrysler.

“The resource supply agreement with ZeaChem provides GreenWood Resources with an important new market for our sustainable wood products,” said Jeff Nuss, president and chief executive officer of GreenWood Resources, Inc. “The ability to sustainably produce dedicated wood biomass as the primary feedstock for biofuels is a strategy that we believe can be replicated globally.”

“Ethanol that is produced from non-food sources at an efficiency rate that ultimately makes it competitive with oil makes business sense,” said Jim Gillingham, senior vice president of alternative fuels and project development at Valero.

“Chrysler Group has long been committed to promoting the consumption of advanced biofuels and to delivering flex-fuel vehicles to our customers,” said Reg Modlin, director of regulatory affairs at Chrysler Group LLC. “Chrysler looks forward to continuing to work with ZeaChem to accelerate the development of commercial production facilities.”


Development of ZeaChem’s first commercial biorefinery is currently underway. Backed by a conditional loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the state-of-the-art facility will have capacity to produce 25 million GPY or more of ethanol and chemicals from woody biomass and agricultural residues. It will be located at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Ore., adjacent to ZeaChem’s 250,000 GPY integrated demonstration biorefinery.

These partnerships and the support of the USDA loan guarantee will help accelerate commercialization of ZeaChem’s C2 product platform in Boardman. Other partnerships, including Procter & Gamble, will drive development of ZeaChem’s product platform beyond C2.

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