US cellulosic ethanol production becoming reality - ethanol group

28 March 2012 19:28  [Source: ICIS news]

SAO PAULO (ICIS)--US cellulosic ethanol production on a commercial scale is becoming a reality, a US trade group said on Wednesday, predicting the US will have 150m gal/year of cellulosic capacity by the end of 2013.

The US has four or five companies that could launch commercial-scale production in the next 18 months, said Edward Hubbard, general counsel with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). 

The US would be much closer to producing cellulosic ethanol in large scale if it were not for the credit crisis in 2008, he said on the sidelines of FO Licht’s eighth annual Sugar and Ethanol Brazil conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

But Hubbard warned that the start-ups being planned would depend on continued government support, citing the extension of US incentives for cellulosic ethanol production that expire at the end of 2012. 

The technology is no longer an issue, but the economic challenges are still there, he said. 

The US will need cellulosic ethanol to meet its Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandates, Hubbard said, adding that the RFS would have to be changed if government support ends. 

Under the RFS, the US will need to use 16bn gal/year of cellulosic ethanol by 2022.

The target is widely seen as overly aggressive and unattainable in that timeframe. 

Cellulosic ethanol, also called second-generation ethanol, is the same as corn or sugarcane ethanol, except that it is more costly to make, and it is produced from non-edible feedstocks, such as switch grass, wood chips and corn cobs. 

The 2012 Sugar and Ethanol Brazil conference opened on Tuesday. The two-day event was organised in partnership with IBC Brasil.

By: William Lemos
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