November 22, 2006

Upgrading Existing Plants for Biomass Conversion

We are beginning to see the "low hanging fruit" being plucked as aggressive ethanol development companies are buying installations and upgrading them into cellulosic ethanol plants. Just this last week two companies have made purchases in two different biostock arenas - agricultural corn waste and forestry wood chips. The companies have bought the plants for their existing procurement infrastructure, permitting, manpower, and proximity to their research facilities.

In the first case, Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota has bought a corn dry mill in northwest Iowa to reconfigure it into a commercial-scale facility capable of converting corn fiber and stover into ethanol. They will be using Broin's patented fractionalization process to break down the fibers and then ferment the resulting starch into ethanol using their own hydrolysis process.

In the second case, controversial Xethanol Corp. has purchased a fiberboard factory that is close to their R&D facility at Virginia Tech to deploy a biorefinery that can convert wood chips into ethanol. This is exactly the kind of plant makeover anticipated by the Forest Products Industry Technology Roadmap study. Expect to see more.

Here are excerpts form their respective press releases...

Broin Companies to Expand Voyager Ethanol in Emmetsburg, Iowa, to Include Cellulose to Ethanol Commercial Production

Broin Companies, the nation's largest dry mill ethanol producer, announced today its plans to build a cellulose to ethanol production facility in the state of Iowa with a completion date expected in 2009.

Voyager Ethanol, located in Emmetsburg, Iowa, will be converted from a 50 million gallon per year (MGPY) conventional corn dry mill facility into a 125 million gallon per year commercial scale bio-refinery designed to utilize advanced corn fractionation and lignocellulosic conversion technologies to produce ethanol from corn fiber and corn stover. Broin Companies has applied for matching grant funds through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to assist with the project.

Known as Project LIBERTY, the expansion will utilize an existing infrastructure with projected costs for the project at just over $200 million dollars. Pilot research for this project has been conducted and the expansion is slated to begin in February with a commercial production timeline set approximately 30 months later. Project LIBERTY, which stands for Launch of an Integrated Bio-refinery with Eco-sustainable and Renewable Technologies in Y2009, will create commercialization results that include 11 percent more ethanol from a bushel of corn and 27 percent more ethanol from an acre of corn while using 83 percent less energy needed to operate a corn-to-ethanol plant.

Technology efforts for Project LIBERTY began several years ago and escalated when Broin and the DOE jointly funded a five-year research initiative to develop and improve dry mill fractionation with the assistance of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and South Dakota State University. The project provided for the commercialization of Broin's fractionation technology, or "BFrac(TM)", which together with Broin's raw starch hydrolysis process (BPX(TM)), creates the foundation for biorefining in the future. The results of BFrac(TM) include producing higher ethanol yields, but more importantly it creates additional value-added products and streams- including the intended use of fiber in the production of cellulose to ethanol.

Xethanol Completes Acquisition of North Carolina Plant

Xethanol Corporation (AMEX: XNL) , a biotechnology driven ethanol company, today announced that it has completed the acquisition of a former medium-density fiberboard factory located in Spring Hope, North Carolina from Carolina Fiberboard Corporation LLC.

"We are very excited by the closing of this transaction as it represents a further milestone in our planned expansion on the east coast," said David Ames, President and CEO of Xethanol. "This acquisition provides Xethanol the opportunity to save both time and money as we seek to achieve our ethanol production goals and also furthers our technology development. We plan to re-open the facility in 2007 as a pilot plant to demonstrate the technical feasibility and economic viability of using wood chips as a cellulosic feedstock. North Carolina has an excellent scientific community to work with, is close to our existing R&D facility at Virginia Tech and provides an abundant supply of hardwood feedstock with which to carry out development work in the cellulosic arena," Ames explained.

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