The potential of cellulosic ethanol is enormous. Sandia National Laboratory says that the U.S. could produce 75 billion gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol by 2030, more than half of today's U.S. gasoline demand. Dozens of companies are rapidly creating new technologies that will turn America’s waste products — garbage, wood chips, agricultural residue, corn stover, grasses, algae and more — into renewable fuel and other bio-based products.
What is Advanced and Cellulosic Ethanol?
Cellulose refers to the material comprising the cell walls of any green plant and is the most common organic compound found on earth. Cellulosic ethanol is ethanol produced by turning the sugars in cellulose into alcohol fuel. Advanced ethanol, by comparison, is sourced from non-cellulosic feedstocks including sugars and starches other than corn starch. All sources of ethanol will be required to provide the nation with the kind of energy choices we need.
The Race to the Next Generation
The first wave of commercial plants are completing construction or are already online in Florida, Mississippi, Iowa and Kansas. In addition, there are projects in various stages of development and construction in more than 20 states, making it clear the cellulosic ethanol industry will have a very diverse geographic profile.
Many existing ethanol biorefineries are exploring technology upgrades that will allow for the production of ethanol from a broader range of feedstocks. These so-called bolt-on technologies will allow ethanol producers to increase ethanol production by converting both grain starch and cellulosic material into fuel at the same facility. Remember, the ethanol molecule is identical, regardless of the feedstock. Utilizing existing piping, storage, and loading infrastructure at current facilities may help lower the cost for the first commercial production of cellulosic and advanced ethanol.
Creating New Opportunities
The rapid rate of innovation and evolution within American ethanol production is bringing new technologies to the market that will increase efficiencies, create new markets for energy crops and waste materials, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans in innovative new careers. The INEOS Bio plant in Vero Beach, Florida supports 400 direct and indirect jobs including 60 full-time employees. For example, the Abengoa Bioenergy cellulosic ethanol biorefinery under construction in Hugoton, Kansas, employs 300 people during construction and will employ 65 full time employees once operational (expected startup early 2014). Other projects and technologies are nearing commercialization that will add value to existing ethanol production and create exciting new economic and career opportunities in a broad spectrum of bio-based applications including fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
For more information on tax policies that would accelerate the commercialization of new advanced and cellulosic ethanol technologies, click HERE.
Last updated March 2014