Whodunnit? The Murder of Carbon Intensity (Hint: Aemetis, Mitsubishi amongst the suspects)

September 8, 2022 |

They have discovered that in carbon as in cholesterol, lower is better, less is more, and I might add that God is in the details. Always in the bioeconomy as in the game of CLUE, when someone murders the carbon intensity, everyone’s next question is Whodunnit? 

In this case, you needn’t look for Miss Scarlet or Professor Green, or seek the rope or the candlestick in the Library or the Dining Room. You see, news has arrived from Lower Carbifornia, formerly known as California, that Aemetis completed the installation and commissioning at the Keyes ethanol plant in California of the first Mitsubishi ZEBREX system in North America, reducing energy costs and increasing biofuel value by more than $5 million per year. 

The details

No, a Zebrex is not a Zebra or a Pushmi-Pullyu either. It’s the Mitsubishi Chemical ZEBREX ethanol dehydration system. The cost of equipment, engineering and installation of the Mitsubishi ZEBREX system was approximately $10 million. Aemetis expects to receive more than $1 million of grant funding from the PG&E and CPUC Energy Efficiency Program in support of the project.

One of several

The Aemetis carbon intensity reduction projects at the Keyes ethanol plant include a 1.9-megawatt solar microgrid with battery backup that will produce zero carbon electricity to reduce natural gas usage, and a Mechanical Vapor Recompression system using electric motors furthers the transition to  renewable electricity.

In July, we reported that Aemetis purchased 24 acres, known as “Parcel B” on the Riverbank Industrial Complex site, to develop a Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) injection well. The company plans to construct a characterization well to obtain required data and final injection well design information that will be used for the EPA Class VI CO2 injection well permit application for the sequestration of approximately one million metric tonnes per year of CO2. https://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2022/07/10/aemetis-acquires-24-acres-for-carbon-capture-and-sequestration-injection-well/

In June we reported that Aemetis connected its third anaerobic digester via pipeline to the company’s main RNG gas cleanup unit located at the Aemetis Advanced Fuels Keyes facility in Keyes, California. Aemetis remains on track to complete an additional five digesters by the end of Q4 2022, with five more digesters under construction in the same timeframe.

The Aemetis Central Dairy Digester project is designed to capture and convey conditioned biogas from more than 60 dairies to the Company’s centralized gas cleanup facility which is operational at the Aemetis Advanced Fuels Keyes ethanol plant. The RNG is either delivered into the PG&E utility pipeline located onsite at the Aemetis ethanol plant, or dispensed to trucks at the RNG fueling station being built at the Aemetis plant, or used as process energy in the Aemetis facility to replace petroleum-based natural gas.

Combined, the Aemetis carbon reduction projects are expected to reduce the use of petroleum natural gas at the Keyes biofuel facility by 85%, which will save the company more than $1 million per month in natural gas costs and provide a significant increase in the value of the ethanol produced at the plant.

If ethanol refineries had mothers, the mother might not recognize the Keyes project, so much has the landscape of 1G ethanol been changed. 

Out with the old, in with the new

The upgrade from the traditional Pressure Swing Adsorption ethanol dehydration process to the ZEBREX system has reduced petroleum natural gas consumption at the Keyes facility by more than 20%, which is estimated to provide energy savings of approximately $3.4 million per year.

The Bottom Line

I swear, if Carbon Intensity was a person, Aemetis would be a serial killer. Hardly a week goes by where Eric “The CI Slasher” McAfee and team do not come out with another reduction in the carbon score and pick up a big win in the My Fuel’s Worth More Than Your Fuel and CI Tells Us Why sweepstakes.  They’ve become one of the usual suspects we round up when carbon emissions have been on the decline. It’s good news, part of a longer storyline that I suspect will not come to a close until the Aemetis ethanol score drops below the temperature of Neptune.

More up to the minute about Aemetis

Elsewhere in the Digest today, we reported that the company has signed $7 billion of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel (RD) supply agreements, totaling 236 million gallons, have been signed, including a contract with Cathay Pacific that was signed by Aemetis today. Previously, Aemetis announced a contract with a major travel stop chain for 450 million gallons of renewable diesel. 

More about ZEBREX

The Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation ZEBREX ethanol dehydration system was commissioned after several years of engineering design, fabrication, installation and testing at the Aemetis 65 million gallon per year, low carbon ethanol plant. The patented ZEBREX technology replaces the energy-intensive molecular sieve ethanol dehydration process used by most fuel ethanol plants in the world. The Aemetis plant upgrade is the largest implementation of the ZEBREX system worldwide.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Implementation of the Mitsubishi ZEBREX technology at the Aemetis Keyes plant  completes another significant project as we transition our ethanol production process from petroleum-based energy sources to renewable electricity,” said Andy Foster, President of Aemetis Advanced Fuels Keyes, Inc. “Our engineering team worked closely with Mitsubishi in Japan to customize the design of the system for large-scale fuel ethanol production. The ZEBREX technology is delivering as promised and Mitsubishi has been an outstanding partner throughout this multi-year process,” added Foster.

Aemetis is focused on producing below zero carbon intensity renewable fuels, including negative carbon intensity renewable natural gas (RNG), sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), renewable diesel (RD), and bioethanol. Aemetis projects maximize the use of agricultural waste or by-products as low carbon feedstocks to produce renewable fuels, while leveraging the value of federal and state carbon reduction programs. Aemetis is developing two carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) wells near its biofuel facilities in Central California that are expected to store about 2 million metric tonnes per year of CO2.

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