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lunes, 24 de julio de 2017

Alliance Bio-Products to demonstrate its CTS technology revamping closed ethanol plant


Alliance Bio-Products, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alliance BioEnergy Plus, Inc., have received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Rural Development for the purchase of a closed ethanol plant in Indian River County (Florida). The approved purchase includes the fully functional plant, more than 143 acres (58 ha) that the plant resides on and all related equipment and vehicles (see press release).

The former facility (INEOS New Planet BioEnergy plant) had been constructed for demonstrating at full commercial scale the economic conversion of a variety of different lignocellulosic waste biomass feedstocks to bioethanol and renewable electricity utilizing the INEOS Bio technology (gasification + fermentation). In addition to having the capacity to produce 8 million gallon (30 million litres) per year of ethanol, the plant also could generate up to 6 MW of electricity. The construction was completed in June 2012 and the first production of cellulosic ethanol at commercial scale took place one year later. In December 2014, the plant was shut down for the installation of a HCN scrubber. The presence of low levels of hydrogen cyanide, toxic to the organisms involved in the fermentation, was a major problem for the process. In 2016, the NREL reported (2015 Survey of Non-Starch Ethanol and Renewable Hydrocarbon Biofuel Producers) that the plant was idled in 2015 while working on mechanical improvements and was expected to resume operations sometime this year. Finally, in September 2016, Ineos Bio announced its intention to sell its ethanol business, including the New Planet BioEnergy plant.

Figure 1. Ineos New Planet BioEnergy plant (extracted from “2015 DOE IBR Platform Peer Review: INEOS New Planet BioEnergy Indian River BioEnergy Center”)

Alliance Bio-Products made an offer to purchase the facility with the purpose of converting the current process into its “Cellulose to Sugar” (CTS) technology under an agreement with Alliance BioEnergy. By renovating the plant and utilizing a state-of-the-art fermentation and distillation system already in place, it believes it can scale-up the production capacity and profitability of its sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels and other products. The project will create approximately 100 permanent jobs in the short term. The purchase of the plant is being funded through a mixture of debt and equity. The equity portion is still open for investor consideration in order to reduce as much debt as possible (offering page).

The plans of the company are based on a 3-stages strategy:
Stage
Production capacity
(million gallon per year)
EBIDTA
(million $)
Date
1
8
25
Summer 2018
2
16
54
2020
3
34
112
2023

According to press release, the patented CTS process (family of patents centered around the main US 8062428 B2) allows to produce biofuels for less than $1 per gallon. It is based on the solid acid catalyzed hydrolysis of cellulose-containing materials. The catalyst (for instance, kaolin or bentonite) in the shape of dry powder is combined with the cellulosic material and agitated to obtain a high yield of soluble sugars into the CTS Reactor. In the process, the agitation of the material provides the kinetic energy necessary to drive the hydrolysis reaction. In just minutes and with no enzymes, liquid acids, applied heat or pressure, the cellulose and hemicellulose is broken down and converted to its C5 and C6 sugars, leaving pure lignin as a byproduct. The only pretreatment that may be necessary is size reduction.

Figure 2. CTS process (extracted from Alliance BioEnergy Plus web page)

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