US to sharply fall short of cellulosic ethanol targets - KATZEN

28 June 2011 22:24  [Source: ICIS news]

Potential cellulosic ethanol feedstockINDIANAPOLIS (ICIS)--US cellulosic ethanol production will sharply fall short of targets mandated under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), an industry executive predicted on Tuesday.

Cellulosic ethanol is identical to regular ethanol, except that the product is made from biomass that does not include edible feedstocks, such as corn.

Under the RFS, the US would have to use 10.5bn gal of cellulosic ethanol by 2020, but global production of that type of biofuel will likely only total 500m gal that year, said Phil Madson, president of KATZEN International.

Cellulosic ethanol production is still at the lab stage and there will not be enough of it to meet those targets, he said on the sidelines of the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) in Indianapolis.

Madson pointed to a recent move by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which last week proposed reducing the mandate for US cellulosic ethanol consumption for 2012 to 3.45m-12.90m gal, from a previous 500m gal target.

While large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol seems unattainable, Madson said the US could bridge its way to that type of biofuel by using multiple starch and sugar-rich plants that are currently available but not widely tapped.

Among those he cited wheat, barley, sun spuds, a special type of sweet potato and cassava root.

Thailand is building its ethanol industry using cassava root, Madson said, adding that Nigeria was also looking into it while China was importing the root to make ethanol.

He also mentioned a special type of sweet potato - not the kind used for food - as having four times the amount of fermentable carbohydrate found in corn.

Ethanol production from these sources of sugar and starch could reach 50bn gal by 2020, using conventionally known technology, he said.

One obstacle, however, is that US ethanol plants are nearly all designed to run solely on corn, Madson said.

US ethanol producers can change their plants to run on a different feedstock, but that usually involves a loss of capacity.

He estimated the loss of capacity at around 15%.

Madson said some plants in Europe do not have that problem because they were already built to run on different feedstocks.

These plants can switch from wheat to corn or vice-versa, depending on which feedstock is available or provides the best return.

Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, KATZEN is a technology, process design and consulting engineering services company, which specialises in biofuels and bio-ethanol.

The FEW conference opened on Monday. The four-day event has drawn some 2,000 delegates from the US, Canada and 24 other countries.

For more on ethanol visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: William Lemos
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