CleanTech Biofuels, Merrick to build MSW-to-ethanol plant

By Hope Deutscher | June 02, 2008
CleanTech Biofuels Inc. and its Denver-based engineering firm Merrick & Co. are partnering with Hazen Research Inc. to construct and operate a municipal-solid-waste-to-ethanol plant at Hazen Research Inc.'s eight-acre research facility in Golden, Colo.

CleanTech Biofuels has an exclusive worldwide sublicense agreement with a company called HFTA in Livermore, Calif., for state-of-the-art technology developed by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley. The patented technology utilizes nitric acid rather than sulfuric or hydrochloric acid to hydrolyze cellulosic material for the production of ethanol and other fuels from biomass. CleanTech Biofuels has also obtained a nonexclusive worldwide license for all other cellulosic biomass feedstocks for ethanol production.

"The nitric acid isn't corrosive to metal," said Michael Kime, chief operating officer and general council for CleanTech Biofuels. "It has a chemical characteristic called passivity,' which means it forms a protective coating on metals, so you can use lower-grade metals and readily available commercial equipment to use the technology in the commercial setting versus other acid-hydrolysis processes. We think that this technology is going to prove to be much better for commercial applications than any of the prior acid-hydrolysis technologies that have been tried or are currently in use."

CleanTech Biofuels purchased and reassembled a reactor system at the Hazen facility. In the first phase of the project, the system is optimizing reaction conditions for the process-engineered fuel derived from municipal solid waste and other cellulosic feedstocks including corn stover, wood waste and switchgrass. "We believe that [the first stage] is unique technology compared with anyone else in the marketplace," Kime said.

In the near future, Kime added, the project should move to Phase Two, in which a demonstration facility will be built on Hazen's research site. Hazen will maintain all permits, licenses and other approvals necessary to complete the project. Once operational, the facility will take in four tons of municipal solid waste daily and produce approximately 36,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

Aurora, Colo.-based Merrick & Co., which owns and operates an ethanol production facility at the Coors Brewery in Golden, is currently working on several cellulosic ethanol projects being developed in the United States.