Pilot-scale cellulosic plant opens in Norway

By Kris Bevill | October 14, 2010
Posted Oct. 22, 2010

On Oct. 22, Norway-based cellulosic ethanol technology developer Weyland commenced production at its 200,000 liter (approximately 53,000 gallon) pilot-scale production facility in Bergen, Norway. The plant will be used to demonstrate the company's acid hydrolysis production process, paving the way for a commercial-scale project. The company also plans to market its technology to producers worldwide.

Weyland's technology has been under development since 1987, when company co-founders Karl Weydahl and Knut Helland began collaborating with Bergen University College to develop a technology that would produce ethanol from cellulose-based feedstocks. The pair formed Weyland in 2001 in order to commercialize the process and began constructing the pilot-scale facility in 2008.

The technology developed by Weyland is based on a standard acid hydrolysis process but adds a patented acid recovery step that Weyland said improves efficiency and feedstock capabilities. Weyland's process recovers 98.5 percent of the acids and solvents used in the process, according to the company, and produces approximately 1 liter of ethanol for every 8 pounds of feedstock, depending on the type of feedstock used. The process has been verified for use with multiple cellulosic feedstocks, including sugarcane bagasse, corn stover, corn cobs, rice straw, hardwoods, softwoods, wood wastes and paper wastes.

Petter Bartz-Johannessen, CEO of Weyland, said the technology's multiple feedstock capabilities will allow it to be applied at facilities around the world. Internally, the company has joined with Norway-based industrial product manufacturer Elkem to evaluate the establishment of a 6-8 MMgy facility in Norway, but is also exploring commercial locations in other countries. "Our dream scenario is to achieve this in Norway, enabling Norway to contribute to the production of renewable energy and the creation of green jobs," Bartz-Johannessen said. "However, this requires both political determination and drive."

Weyland has received financial backing from several Norway institutions, including Statoil, which is one of the world's largest oil and gas production companies. Statoil first invested in Weyland in 2009 and contributed "substantially" to the funding of the pilot plant, according to Weyland. Guntis Aboltins-Abolins, head of the future fuel unit at Statoil, said Weyland represents an interesting and robust feedstock-flexible technology. "Together we are passing a historic milestone towards industrialization of this low-carbon renewable fuel technology," he said. "We are very excited with the progress and are looking forward to see the next achievements."