InterviewBioethanol refinery in Oregon ahead of schedule - ZeaChem CEO

29 June 2011 04:20  [Source: ICIS news]

By Ivan Lerner

NEW YORK (ICIS)--Citing a potential market penetration in the high billions of dollars, US-based cellulosic ethanol producer ZeaChem is advancing rapidly with its new refinery, the company’s chief said on Tuesday.

The company’s 250,000 gal/year (946,000 litre/year) demonstration refinery at Boardman in Oregon is 65% done. The refinery is targeted to be running before the end of the year “ahead of schedule and under budget”, said James Imbler, ZeaChem’s president and CEO. He was speaking on the sidelines of the 2011 BioPlastek conference.

The completed refinery is estimated to cost $40m (€28m).

ZeaChem focuses on biomass-based ethanol and ethyl acetate using hybrid poplar as feedstock. “Our goal is to be competitive with $50/bbl oil,” said Imbler.

The company is working towards providing cellulosic ethanol to make into polyethylene (PE) for packaging applications, but after that, ZeaChem is “working on moving to polypropylene (PP)”, said Imbler.

“We make precursor molecules,” explained the CEO. “We want to stay as far upstream as possible.”

At the beginning of June, the company signed a multi-year joint development deal with Procter & Gamble (P&G) for biobased chemicals and other products. Market observers have noted that ZeaChem could expand P&G’s renewable feedstock possibilities.

The company is lining up more end-user markets, but the ZeaChem CEO notes: “It is like a chess game [when] picking partners.”

More chemical companies and end-users are pursuing green alternatives, said Imbler. “Green is having an impact; if given a choice, the average consumer will go greener.”

The 2011 BioPlastek conference is being held in New York City from June 27-29.

($1 = €0.70)

For more on ethanol, visit ICIS chemical intelligence
Bookmark Doris de Guzman’s
Green Chemicals Blog for some independent views on bioplastics

By: Ivan Lerner
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