Renewable Fuel in China

GE, LanzaTech, Greentech advance ethanol projects
By Holly Jessen | May 13, 2011

Three ethanol projects in China were announced this spring.

A demonstration plant, which will produce ethanol from steel mill off-gases, is a project of LanzaTech, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Baosteel Group Corp. They have formed a joint venture, Shanghai Baosteel LanzaTech New Energy Company Ltd., to build a 100,000 gallon-a-year facility near Shanghai to be completed by the end of the year. The model will be quickly scaled up for the first commercial plant in China, potentially capable of producing 50 MMgy of ethanol as well as chemicals for the production of polymers and drop-in fuels from CO2 or carbon monoxide. “Because China produces 50 percent of the world’s steel and already has ethanol mandates in many of its provinces, it is a natural first market for LanzaTech’s technology,” says Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of Lanzatech.

The company’s technology ferments and converts gases into fuels and chemicals. It can utilize industrial flue gases from steel mills and processing plants, coal-derived syngas and steam-reformed methane or syngas generated from any biomass resource. “China is keenly aware of the importance of producing fuels without impacting the food supply, making LanzaTech’s technology ideally suited for implementation there,” Holmgren tells EPM. “In addition, the production of ethanol at Chinese steel mills enables savings on the total cost of production of alternate fuels as most steel mills are in large industrial centers, which are highly populated. The use of biomass to make fuels in China requires the addition of large transport costs, as the biomass is typically a considerable distance from the urban centers where the fuel ethanol is needed.”

Another project under development is a 33.5 MMgy ethanol plant in Harbin, China. American Jianye Greentech Holdings Ltd., a developer, manufacturer and distributor of alcohol-based fuel in China, and partner GeneSyst International announced completion of the design of the Suihua Waste-to-Fuel Plant. Expected to be completed in 18 months, the plant will process more than 500,000 tons of garbage and 1 million tons of sewage a year into ethanol and power, generating annual sales of about $100 million annually.

The fuel produced by this process is cleaner and costs less than conventional fuels, says Haipeng Wang, chairman and president of Jianye Greentech. “By producing our own ethanol from municipal solid waste and sludge, we can lower the input costs for our blended fuels in excess of 15 percent,” he added. “Our blended fuel combines ethanol and petroleum fuel, along with our proprietary fuel catalyst, which allows us to increase the concentration of ethanol up to 85 percent.” 

Finally, GE announced that it would provide its Jenbacher biogas engine technology to power an ethanol plant under construction in NanYang by Henen Tianguan Group. The engines will be installed in a 36 megawatt power plant to utilize the ethanol plant’s waste methane biogas to generate renewable electricity that will be sold to the grid and used to power the ethanol plant. “Installing GE’s Jenbacher biogas engines at our ethanol production facility will offer clear environmental benefits and help us achieve significant energy efficiency gains to help us generate more profits and become more competitive throughout the region,” says Zhang Xiaoyang, chairman of the Henan Tianguan Group. —Holly Jessen