Similar to a previously noted project in New York, the one in Florida will test the ability of biotechnology to overcome recalcitrance of cellulosic biomass and convert cellulose to sugars that then are fermented to make ethanol efficiently. Both sites will use wood scraps; they will differ in the other biomass used as feedstock.
Green Car Congress, who covers COB (Cruise On Booze) and BTL (Biomass To Liquids) topics extensively, recently had noted that a company in Japan has begun production of cellulosic ethanol from wood scraps. Florida Crystals is a sugar company. Like its many counterparts in Brazil, the Florida Crystals gets electric power from sugar cane fiber. Also, like the Japanese plant, it can use wood scraps.
The company claims it has reduced dependence on foreign oil by about 800,000 barrels a year thanks to its New Hope Power Partnership, located next to the company’s Okeelanta facility. The NHPP turns sugar cane fiber and urban wood waste into electricity used by the company and about 60,000 homes (how this directly eliminates oil imports is unclear, but I get that they’re making energy from biomass products, which is cool).
It would seem that the University of Florida thinks it cool as well. According to Autoblog Green, they selected the Okeelanta facility as the site for a new cellulosic ethanol plant. As previously noted cellulosic ethanol holds promises as a means of sustainable fuel.
The Common Purpose Institute website describes a unique public and industry research and commercial demonstration partnership, which includes University of Florida, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farmers, Power Providers, Biofuel Producers, and others. As part of a national, Biomass Biofuels Initiative, the focus is to study ways to grow, harvest, and use fast growing crops (called energy crop or closed loop biomass) and also biomass waste streams (e.g., clean yard waste, crop residues, etc.) as renewable energy biofuel or feedstocks for:
- Power plants (e.g., woody crops, switchgrass).
- Clean biogas for Industrial use (e.g., product drying).
- Ethanol production (e.g., sweet sorghum, sugarcane).
- Biodiesel production (e.g., soybeans).
- Biorefineries (steam, power, value added bio-products).
Researchers will use the $20 million demonstration project to test the idea of making cellulosic ethanol from sugarcane bagasse and other biomass sources. They project that the plant could produce between 1-2 million gallons of ethanol each year. One of the variables in production quantity is how easily the sugar cane fiber and wood can be broken down. There is ongoing development of pre-treatment methods and uses for the other byproducts.