The energy consortium Omega Energy USA is planning a biorefinery in Louisiana to turn waste biomass from sugar cane operations into ethanol. If the project is completed, it will be the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility to open in the US since DuPont started up a corn waste plant in 2015.
DuPont later shuttered that plant—as did Abengoa and Ineos with similar facilities—despite financial support from government agencies and laws requiring fuel companies to blend in advanced biofuels. A joint venture of the ethanol firm POET and the enzyme maker DSM has operated a corn waste facility in Iowa since 2014. In recent years, scientists in Brazil, Colombia, and the US have built models showing that making cellulosic sugar from sugar cane waste, or bagasse, can help lower the overall costof ethanol production in plants that produce both ethanol and sugar. Today, most sugar plants burn the waste bagasse to produce steam and electricity to power the plants. Excess power is sold to the electric grid. In Louisiana, Omega has partnered with LaSuCa, a regional cooperative that processes sugar cane, to get the feedstock. It has turned to the Indian engineering firm Praj Industries to supply the biorefining technology, which Praj calls Enfinity. Praj has operated a demonstration facility in India since 2009. Praj says the new plant will produce 38 million to 57 million L of cellulosic ethanol per year.