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Abengoa Bioenergy Opens Pilot Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in York, NE

Date Posted: October 16, 2007

By Myke Feinman, BioFuels Journal Editor

York, NE--Abengoa Bioenergy hosted an open house Friday, Oct. 12, to showcase its new state-of-the-art cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol pilot plant.


Abengoa Executive Vice President Chris Standlee.
The plant is located adjacent to Abengoa’s 55-million-gallon-per-year (MMGY) ethanol production facility, and will research and test proprietary technology for ultimate use in commercial-scale conversion of biomass into ethanol.

Abengoa CEO Javier Salgado announced at the open house that on Sept. 19 the pilot plant produced its first batch of ethanol utilizing wheat straw as the feedstock.

The pilot plant will produce 80 gallons per day of cellulosic ethanol, Salgado said, utilizing one ton of wheat straw daily.

"We have the know how to produce this fuel," Salgado said. "With this project, Abengoa Bioenergy continues the journey that began in 1995 to establish a leadership position in the biofuels technology and production capacity to provide sustainable energy alternative to the transportation sector."

Based in Seville, Spain, Abengoa, with U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, MO, is the second largest producer of ethanol in the world.

The plant was made possible in part with a $17 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for the $34 million pilot plant.

Feedstocks

Tom Robb, manager of the Abengoa Co-Products Division, said other feedstocks the plant will be experimenting with include corn stover, switchgrass, sorghum, and wood waste.

When asked if using corn stover would be depleting the soil nutrients for corn farmers, he said the question is being examined by researchers at Kansas State University.

"The researchers are determining how much is the correct amount of corn stover to utilize," Robb said. "We’ve got to do this in a way that makes sense for the food chain."

According to Dave Dickerson, owner of DD Crop Consultant,York, NE in York County where the pilot plant is located, there are 208,000 acres of corn within 20 miles, which produces 9 tons of corn stover each year.

Taking away 25% of the stover equates to 500,000 tons of biomass each year, Dickerson said.

Co-products

The pilot plant will utilize fractionation, producing three fractions:

•Lignin which has value as a co-product to be primarily used for an adhesive in the manufacture of plywood.

•Cellulose with 6 carbon sugars for ethanol production.

•Hemi cellulose with 5 carbon sugars for ethanol production.

There will also be a protein co-product produced which can be added to cattle feed in addition to the dried distillers grains (DDGS) that are produced from traditional ethanol production.

"The cellulosic ethanol protein can be added to feed at 3% to 5%," Robb said. "The co-product has synergies to DDGS."

Open house keynote speaker Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said the pilot plant represents a new era in energy production for America, and his state will be a major player in the ethanol industry.

"This is important not just for our state, but for America," Heinemann said.

"This is a very exciting time for agriculture in America. We are fortunate to be a leader in ethanol, being the number two producers of ethanol in the U.S. By the end of 2008, we will have the capacity to produce 2 billion gallons of ethanol in Nebraska."

Commercial Plant Next

Robb said the York pilot plant will be the research and development facility for all of Abengoa’s four ethanol facilities and will help finalize the cellulosic process and feedstocks which will be used for commercial operations.

Abengoa announced in August that a 100 million-gallon-per-year (MMGY) hybrid ethanol facility, which will include an 85 MMGY traditional starch plant and a 15 MMGY commercial-scale, $190 million cellulosic ethanol plant will be constructed in Hugoton, Kansas.

The DOE provided $76.8 million toward construction of the Kansas plant. The Hugoton plant is expected to be in operation by the fourth quarter of 2010.

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