Inbicon: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

February 26, 2014 |

Company overview:

Inbicon’s technology produces cellulosic ethanol or renewable chemicals from wheat straw via enzymatic hydrolysis, with co-products including renewable power.

In a typical Inbicon project, 1200 metric tons per day will be converted into 20 million gallons a year of The New Ethanol; 180,000 MT/year of clean lignin, used to produce green electricity; and 185,500 MT/year of C5 molasses for livestock feed or conversion to higher-value green chemistry products.

Given the corn stover and wheat straw currently available after the annual U.S. and Canadian grain harvests, Inbicon envisions a potential 500 biomass refineries producing 10 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year and generating as much as 20,000 MW of green power by 2022.


50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: 2012-13, #33

Biofuels Digest Awards

In 2010, Statoil was recognized as Downstream partner of the Year for its work with Inbicon, Bioarchitecture Lab and other partners in creating investment and distribution for advanced biofuels.

The Situation

Last June, Inbicon announced that its cellulosic biofuels demonstration plant has crossed the 15,000 operating hour mark, since opening in December 2009, in converting wheat straw into cellulosic ethanol and other renewable fuel. Inbicon sells commercial licenses for processes that make low-carbon renewable transportation fuel and electrical power from the leftovers of the grain and cane harvests, such as corn stalks, various straws and grasses, and sugar bagasse.

At commercial scale, Inbicon Biomass Refineries can convert up to 1320 metric tons a day of biomass such as corn stalks into 30 million gallons a year of cellulosic ethanol, which Inbicon calls The New Ethanol.

Two new versions of the design are designed for either co-location or integration with large existing grain-ethanol plants. In America alone, the market for cellulosic ethanol is expected to reach a government-mandated 16-billion gallons annually by 2022.

A third new version, ready for licensing 2014/Q2, stops short of making ethanol. Instead, it delivers clarified industrial sugars to innovators in biochemicals.

All four versions of the Inbicon Biomass Refinery also produce 180,000 metric tons a year of clean lignin, which can be converted to baseload electric power, dependably replacing coal with renewable energy.

“We were first in the world to test our process so extensively,” says Benny Mai, Chief Commercial Officer of Inbicon. “We’ve spent over a decade and over $200,000,000 developing, proving, and optimizing our technology. We’ve committed $20 million more to ongoing R&D. The knowledge we’ve gained from 15,000 hours of running and improving the Inbicon Biomass Refinery—a four-metric-ton-per-hour wheat straw operation—will make our commercial performance guarantees robust and financeable.”

“Inbicon will be the first biomass converter to guarantee four process options,” says Mai. “Two new versions feature all-sugar fermentation, which can increase the yield of cellulosic ethanol by up to 50% over our previous commercial process.

Type of fuel produced:

Major investors.
Statoil, DONG Energy

Past milestones:

Opened 1.3 Mgy pilot plant in Kalundborg, Denmark in 12/2009.

Inbicon has commenced shipping cellulosic ethanol to Statoil with a 8,00 gallon (28,500 liter) delivery from the Inbicon’s  demonstration plant at the Asnæs powerplant in Kalundborg. Overall, Statoil has bought the first five million litres of Inbicon second generation bio ethanol, produced from wheat straw and other agricultural and forestry waste, using enzymes from Novozymes. Statoil, which began offering biogasoline to motorists in 2006, is now also blending under a mandate passed by the Danish parliament in 2009.

In 2012, Inbicon certified Poyry as meeting all quality, reliability, and professional standards necessary for engineering projects involving Inbicon Biomass Refineries. Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, Poyry employs 7,000 people worldwide in 50 countries, including the American office in Appleton, Wisconsin.

In 2012, Inbicon and Novozymes have become associated with the Maabjerg Energy Concept, a highly ambitious effort to produce cellulosic ethanol, biogas, district heat, power, and a small amount of industrial CO2. It’s an integrated design concept, as routinely developed, it seems, by the Danes, although rarely so comprehensively elsewhere. The consortium aimed to build a 2nd generation bioethanol plant, a hydrogen production plant and a waste treatment plant in Måbjerg. At the same time, the production of biogas by Maabjerg BioEnergy would be increased significantly, and the biomass-fired cogeneration plant Måbjergværket would be revamped.

Maabjerg Energy Concept is located at the western part of Denmark, near the cities Struer and Holstebro in Jutland. Maabjerg Bioethanol will be built on the site next to Maabjerg BioEnergy. The plant will use 400 000 tons of straw and other annual plants to produce 2nd generation bioethanol, molasses and lignin. The plant will be based on the technology that DONG Energy developed in the Inbicon pilot plant in Kalundborg, Denmark.

In December 2013, Royal DSM, together with DONG Energy, announced it has demonstrated the combined fermentation of C6 and C5 sugars from wheat straw on an industrial scale. The combined fermentation results in a 40 percent increase in ethanol yield per ton of straw, which can result in significant cost cuts in the production of bio-ethanol from cellulosic feedstock.

The demonstration took place in DONG Energy’s Inbicon demonstration plant in Kalundborg, Denmark, the longest running demonstration facility for cellulosic bio-ethanol production in the world. The facility was reconstructed in 2013 in order to be able to conduct mixed fermentation of C6 and C5 sugars. In a two month fermentation test, mixed C6 and C5 fermentation using DSM’s advanced yeast was found to yield 40 percent more ethanol per ton of straw than traditional C6 fermentation.

Future milestones:

Projects in North America and China, in addition to future Danish projects with DONG Energy.

Business model:


Competitive edge:

At Biofuels International Canada in 2011, Inbicon VP Paul Kamp said that his company could produce cellulosic ethanol at $1.84 per gallon on an operating basis, based on expected conditions in Alberta, creating a substantial margin compared to conventional ethanol production, and could work creatively with partners on financing options through tax credits and incentives to limit the impact of higher capital expenditures compared to first-gen fuels.

Kamp said that a 50 ton per hour commercial-scale facility would utilize 463,000 tons of wheat straw, produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol, 200,000 tons of C5 molasses and 175,000 tons of lignin that could provide power for the entire process, plus extra power supplied to the grid. Kamp added that, based on the total grain acreage in North America, the potential existed, using Inbicon technolo to produce 20,000 MW of renewable power and up to 9.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol. The Inbicon process generally uses agricultural residues at this time, as opposed to woody biomass feedstocks.

Development stage:

Company website

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