Dozens of companies are rapidly proving out new technologies that will turn America’s waste products – garbage, wood chips, agricultural residue, corn stover and more – into renewable fuel and other bio-based products. Many of these innovators have pilot and demonstration level projects already producing fuel. And, a handful have commercial-scale facilities under development and construction.
What is advanced and cellulosic ethanol?
Cellulose refers to the material comprising the cell walls of any green plant and is the most common organic compound found on earth. Cellulosic ethanol is ethanol produced by turning the sugars in cellulose into alcohol fuel. Advanced ethanol, by comparison, is sourced from non-cellulosic feedstocks including sugars and starches other than corn starch. All sources of ethanol will be required to provide the nation with the kind of energy choices we need.
The Race to the Next Generation
Many existing ethanol biorefineries are exploring technology upgrades that will allow for the production of ethanol from a broader range of feedstocks. These so-called bolt-on technologies will allow ethanol producers to increase ethanol production by converting both grain starch and cellulosic material into fuel at the same facility. Remember, the ethanol molecule is identical, regardless of the feedstock. Utilizing existing piping, storage, and loading infrastructure at current facilities may help lower the cost for the first commercial production of cellulosic and advanced ethanol.
The market created by existing ethanol production is also helping pave the way for stand alone, or green field, advanced and cellulosic ethanol biorefineries. Scores of ethanol technology companies are already into the demonstration phase of production, proving that technologies that convert everything from corn stalks to grasses to garbage to algae into ethanol are viable.
Today, more than two dozen companies are aggressively deploying demonstration or commercial scale projects all across the nation.
Creating New Opportunities
The rapid rate of innovation and evolution within American ethanol production is bringing new technologies to the market that will increase efficiencies, create new markets for energy crops and waste materials, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans in innovative new careers. For example, the Abengoa Bioenergy cellulosic ethanol biorefinery under construction in Hugoton, Kansas, will employ 300 people during construction and 65 full time employees once operational. Other projects and technologies are nearing commercialization that will add value to existing ethanol production and create exciting new economic and career opportunities in a broad spectrum of bio-based applications including fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
For more information on tax policies that would accelerate the commercialization of new advanced and cellulosic ethanol technologies, click HERE.
Last updated April 2012.