INEOS BIO bringing Florida cellulosic ethanol plant back on line

Author: Al Greenwood


INEOS BIO bringing Florida cellulosic ethanol plant back on lineHOUSTON (ICIS)--INEOS Bio is bringing its new cellulosic ethanol plant in Florida back on line after contamination forced it to sharply reduce production, the company said in a statement made available on Tuesday.

INEOS Bio completed a major turnaround at the plant in Vero Beach, Florida, which included upgrades to the technology, it said.

The company is also in the process of finishing the installation of equipment that will remove impurities from one of the plant's process streams, it said. The contamination had been disrupting production.

This equipment should be brought on line over the remainder of the year.

INEOS Bio had been making very little ethanol at its cellulosic plant in Florida because its gasification process was producing too much hydrogen cyanide (HCN), which was contaminating the synthesis gas the plant fed to its anaerobic bacteria, according to documents obtained by ICIS.

To address the contamination, INEOS Bio is installing three towers that will scrub and strip the HCN from the synthesis gas (syngas), according to a document from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. INEOS Bio had applied for a permit to install the towers.

INEOS Bio has spent the past year investigating ways to improve the operations of both the Florida plant as well as its pilot plant in Fayetteville, Arkansas, according to a statement by Nigel Falcon, site director. The efforts include improving the technology and de-bottlenecking the plant to achieve full production capacity.

At full capacity, the plant can produce 8m gal/year (30m litres/year).

INEOS Bio developed the plant with its joint-venture partner NPE Florida.

When the plant started commercial production in July 2013, it was the largest cellulosic plant at the time.

Unlike many cellulosic plants being developed, INEOS Bio did not use an enzymatic process to extract the sugars from biomass.

The enzymatic process produces C5 and C6 sugars as well as lignin. While the sugars can be converted to ethanol, the lignin cannot, and it is typically burned as a fuel for the plant.

INEOS Bio's process can potentially convert much more of the biomass's carbon into ethanol because it relies on a gasification process, which does not leave left-over lignin.

Under the gasification process, the company gasifies the biomass, producing syngas, which is a mixture of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen.

It feeds the CO to anaerobic bacteria, where the gas is fermented to produce ethanol.

Other companies are also developing gasification process to produce renewable fuels and chemicals. Depending on their gasification technology, INEOS Bio's HCN problem could presage potential challenges just as its scrubbers could offer a solution.

While INEOS Bio troubleshoots its plant, POET-DSM Biofuels opened its 20m gal/year cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa, which uses an enzymatic process to extract sugars from biomass.

The company is a joint venture made up of DSM and POET.

DuPont and Abengoa are also developing cellulosic ethanol plants that rely on enzymes.

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