Issue Date: May 21, 2012
Biofuels Bloom In The South
Biofuels based on technologies from KiOR, Honeywell’s UOP division, and LS9 will soon be produced in the southern U.S., according to recent company announcements. Although the technologies, level of completion, and business strategies of the firms differ, analysts say the projects portend a busy summer for the advanced-biofuels industry.
KiOR says it has completed construction of its first commercial-scale facility on budget and ahead of schedule. The company is now commissioning the plant, in Columbus, Miss., and expects to begin production this summer. Once it is fully operational, the facility will have an annual capacity of 11 million gal. The company makes what it calls renewable crude oil in a fluid catalytic cracking process similar to that used in petroleum refining. The feedstock will be local southern yellow pine.
Meanwhile, UOP has licensed its biomass-refining technology, which it calls Ecofining, to Chicago-based Emerald Biofuels. Unlike the KiOR process, UOP’s catalytic hydroprocessing technology uses natural oils and waste animal fats as feedstock. Emerald plans to build an 85 million-gal-per-year renewable diesel refinery at Dow Chemical’s site in Plaquemine, La. It expects to complete financing later this year and then immediately begin construction.
The biofuels wave has also hit Florida, where LS9 will hold the grand opening of its scaled-up demonstration facility on June 12. LS9 uses genetically engineered microbes to convert biobased feedstock to diesel and chemical intermediates. The Okeechobee plant, which will start making biodiesel, contains a 135,000-L fermentation vessel, a jump from earlier production of 50,000-L quantities. The output will provide commercial samples for testing by prospective customers.
Using company announcements, Michael J. Ritzenthaler, an analyst at investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co., is tracking the progress of 175 renewable fuels and chemical facilities. “Not all will get built,” he tells C&EN. But the plants from KiOR and LS9 are on his “12 projects to watch in 2012” list. The news that they have completed the facilities is “good for the space and bodes well for the adoption of biofuels,” he says.
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