Biomass to Gasoline Production Plant Dedicated in Texas

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 3:17 PM PDT
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Biomass to Gasoline Production Plant Dedicated in Texas

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BRYAN, Texas, November 7, 2008 (ENS) - Texas Governor Rick Perry was on hand today for the dedication of a unique biofuels conversion facility in Bryan, about 70 miles northwest of Houston.

The new facility built by Terrebon, LLC will confirm the scaled-up, commercial feasibility of the company's MixAlco technology, which converts non-food biomass into industrial chemicals and transportation fuels.

Governor Perry encouraged continued investment in researching and marketing alternative energy sources as a way to move Texas and the United States toward energy independence.

"Energy independence has become a critical goal as the worldwide demand for energy continues to rise, and traditional energy sources can no longer be solely depended on to provide the resources needed," the governor said.

"To advance to the next generation of energy technologies, we must continue to develop and refine new ideas and take some risk to produce and market them through innovation and competitive markets."

"In the same way that Texas long ago set the pace in petroleum production and refining, we are now leading the way into a new era of renewable energy production, which will move us closer to energy independence," the governor said.

At the new facility, Terrebon will use sorghum as the primary feedstock with the objective of producing organic salts and converting them to ketones, which can be converted to renewable gasoline.

The MixAlco technology, so named because of the mixed alcohols that result, has been developed over the past 15 years by Dr. Mark Holtzapple, a professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

The technology converts biomass - trees, grass, manure, sewage sludge, garbage - into mixed alcohols for use as fuel. "We can use anything biodegradable," Holtzapple says. "If you put it outside and it rots, we can use it."

Terrabon holds the only worldwide licensing rights from Texas A&M to this unique acid fermentation technology, which the company has successfully tested for the past three years at its pilot plant in College Station.

"We are pleased with the speed and efficiency with which this facility has been developed and look forward to bringing it on line by year-end," said Gary Luce, Terrabon's chief executive officer.

Addressing 500 investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and policymakers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's 21st Growth Forum meeting October 29 in Denver, Luce explained that cows were the original inspiration for the acid fermentation technology.

"MixAlco, which was inspired by the digestive processes of the ordinary cow, is an advanced bio-refining process that employs carboxylic acid fermentation followed by downstream chemistry to convert biomass products such as municipal solid waste, sewage sludge, forest product residues and non-edible energy crops, into industrial chemicals and renewable gasoline," said Luce.

Luce said he considers the economics of the MixAlco technology to be extremely attractive. For example, a project for a city of 100,000, using 200 tons per day of municipal solid waste as biomass, could generate 4.5 million gallons per year of renewable gasoline at a capital cost of $22.5 million and a cash cost of less than $1.50 per gallon.

"The growing interest in clean energy investments is phenomenal." said L. Marty Murphy, manager of enterprise development with the National Renewable Energy Lab. "Public support for increasing our energy options is at an all time high. People are concerned about increased energy costs, our reliance on foreign oil, as well as the threat of climate change."

Terrabon has funded development of the technology and its intellectual property since 1995. Currently, this includes 12 U.S. patents and more than 14 U.S. patent applications as well as numerous others in international markets.

The research that developed the MixAlco technology also led to two additional products.

SoluPro converts inexpensive protein-bearing waste material into animal feed and green commercial adhesives.

AdVE utilizes advanced vapor-compression evaporation to substantially reduce the capital and operating costs of purification for brackish and salty water.

Terrabon plans to license and joint venture all three technologies with other companies and municipalities, but for now the focus is on MixAlco.

Luce said, "Terrabon's MixAlco technology is a cost effective, sustainable solution to the urgent need to produce biofuels and bio-chemicals that satisfy the world's appetite for renewable energy resources and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil."

{Photo: Sorghum is a grain that Terrebon will use as a feedstock for the MixAlco production plant in Bryan, Texas. (Photo courtesy University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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