Kudos to ICM and Dupont
More developments for cellulosic ethanol this past week that give a glimpse of the future. Dupont broke ground on its 30 MMgy plant in Nevada, Iowa, and ICM announced the successful completion of 1,000 hours of pilot testing for its cellulosic process. Congratulations to both.
You can read the stories for the details. What I would like to point out are the tidbits that strike me as the glimpse of the future. Dupont is co-locating its plant with Lincolnway Energy LLC. One reason is a no brainer—sharing infrastructure such as rail, utilities, storage and more. The other is the lignin coproduct from Dupont's, which Lincolnway will use to eventually displace 100 percent of the coal used to generate steam. Plus, Dupont expects to have lignin to sell above and beyond what Lincolnway will use.
Nice synergy, there, that improves the GHG performance of ethanol, and an important coup for Lincolnway. Increasingly, ethanol is judged by its GHG-reducing performance. Lincolnway is one of a handful of ethanol plants using coal for power, as far as I can tell. Replacing that with lignin will drastically improve its score, as coal-fired systems get the worst rating in GHG accounting. I can just imagine coal-fired industries, or even universities or municipalities, might find a co-located plant producing renewable fuels from backyard biomass married to coal-power alternative lignin mighty attractive.
ICM announced the validation of what it is calling Generation 1.5 Integrated Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology. By integrating the conversion of corn fiber into ethanol, the company reported a 4-10 percent increase in ethanol yield per bushel, to 3.1 gallons per bushel. Converting the fiber also increased oil recovery rates and the protein concentration in the distillers grains. Another way to look at it is that the same quantity of ethanol can be produced with 10 percent less bushels of corn.
Increasing the efficiency of first-generation ethanol is a very important service to the industry. And, having done a story recently on another ICM system reducing losses through a CO2 scrubber bottom ethanol recovery technology, I know that ICM also pays attention to costs – working to design systems with reasonable payback periods. For those plants that were able to build up a war-chest during good margin times, let us hope that these tight margins don’t totally wipe out their ability to adopt new technologies. And let’s hope that ICM’s Generation 1.5 technology continues to scale up successfully.