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martes, 2 de mayo de 2017

Danish 2G bioethanol project to get back on its feet

The project to build the 2G bioethanol plant in the Maabjerg Energy Center (MEC) was going through difficult times in 2016. In fact, in October last year, it was announced in a press release that the parties behind the project had decided not to go ahead with the biorefinery near Holstebro in Central Jutland. Jørgen Udby, Chairman of the Board for MEC, said at that time: “It's a great shame that we're now forced to make the tough decision to drop the project. We have an extremely well-designed project, which has been scrutinised from all angles over five years.” The consortium stated that the project would be put on hold as a consequence of not being able to find a political majority to support the idea of providing public guarantees for the investment. Instead, they were encouraged to look for private investors.

However, the project seems to have found new impetus. Last month, the London based investment firm Pioneer Point Partners confirmed in a letter of intent that they are ready to negotiate investment up to 160 M€ in the plant. They have made it a precondition that the political framework and long term government support is settled first. MEC has already resumed negotiations with the Danish Government.

After considering that the project was too beneficial to the region to not keep trying, the consortium decided to do what they were encouraged to. They split the project into two parts: a non-profit part consisting of the two existing plants and a commercial part consisting solely of the future 2G bioethanol plant. This led to contact with investors such as Pioneer Point Partners which has a long track record of investing in renewable Energy across Europe.

The plan is to build and integrate a 2G ethanol plant (MEC Bioethanol) with the existing energy facilities at the site: MEC BioHeat & Power and MEC Biogas. The former is a CHP plant put in operation in 1997. It has a maximum output of 28 MW and generates both district heating and electricity for the grid. It is possible to adjust the proportions of heat and electricity so that more heating can be produced when the electricity market price is low. The latter was commissioned in June 2012 and is one of Europe’s largest industrial biogas plants with a capacity to treat up around 800,000 tons of material per annum. The feedstock is predominately slurry and animal manure. The large-scale demo facility will be the final component of the MEC complex. Thanks to the new, highly efficient enzymes from Novozymes and the Inbicon technology of DONG Energy, MEC would be able to produce 73 million litres per year of 2G bioethanol from 300,000 tons of straw (100,000 tons less than previously estimated).

Figure 1. Integration of the three plants of the MEC complex (extracted from MEC web page)

The news has been received with great enthusiasm among the mayors in Holstebro and Struer – the home towns of the projected 2G bioethanol plant. The plant is projected to be established right on the boundaries of the municipality of Struer and the utility companies of both municipalities (Struer Forsyning and Vestforsyning) are both involved in the project.

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