SunOpta and GreenField Ethanol Create Wood-Chip Cellulosic Ethanol Joint Venture; NY State Makes Two Wood Cellulosic Ethanol Development Awards
SunOpta has signed a joint venture agreement with GreenField Ethanol—formerly known as Commercial Alcohols, Canada’s leading producer of fuel ethanol—to develop and implement commercial scale processes for the production of cellulosic ethanol from wood chips, including the planned establishment of one or more commercial scale plants employing the new process.
Separately, New York Governor George Pataki announced two awards totalling $25.2 million for the development of wood and paper pulp-based cellulosic ethanol facilities: one to Mascoma (earlier post), and the other to Catalyst Renewables Corporation (CRC), a Dallas, Texas-based renewable energy company that currently owns two biomass-to-energy plants in New York.
The first SunOpta-Greenfield plant is planned to produce 40 million liters (10.6 million gallons US) of cellulosic ethanol per year, which would be one of the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants built and operational in the world using wood chips.
Greenfield Ethanol and SunOpta are actively involved in selecting a site for the first plant in Ontario or Quebec. Subsequent plants will be in the range of 200 to 400 million liters (52.8 to 105.7 million gallons) per year capacity.
The venture will be owned 50% by GreenField and 50% by SunOpta’s BioProcess Group and will utilize the SunOpta BioProcess Group’s patented and proprietary process solutions for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
As previously announced, the SunOpta BioProcess Group is raising $30 million to fund exciting growth projects utilizing the Group’s proprietary technology in the production of cellulosic ethanol. This joint venture is an exciting first step in the use of these funds and we are most pleased to partner with GreenField, combining their world class expertise developing ethanol plants with our world class expertise in biomass pretreatment and cellulosic ethanol technologies.—Steve Bromley, President and COO of SunOpta
SunOpta notes that the economic success of cellulosic ethanol depends on a number of factors:
- High C5/C6 conversion to Monomers
- GMO Organism to convert both C5/C6 to cellulosic ethanol
- Enzymatic/fermentation times close to starch
- High percentage concentration to distillation
- Utilize excess biomass for energy (SunOpta sees cellulosic ethanol plants being net contributors to the grid)
- Co-location with existing infrastructure
- Proximity to market
The SunOpta BioProcess Group produces cellulosic ethanol, cellulosic butanol, xylitol, and dietary fiber for human consumption worldwide, and is currently supplying equipment and technology to three cellulosic ethanol projects in the US, Spain, and China. (Earlier post.)
GreenField Ethanol currently produces 215 million liters a year of corn-based ethanol at its plants in Chatham and Tiverton, Ontario. A third facility in Varennes, Quebec is slated to open in February 2007 and two more plants are under construction in Hensall and Johnstown, Ontario, and will be operational in 2008. GreenField Ethanol will be one of the top producers in North America with five operating plants, producing more than 700 million litres of ethanol per year by 2008.
In the New York State awards, CRC will receive $10,345,673 in funding to build a 130,000 gallon per year biorefinery adjacent to the company’s existing wood-to-energy plant in Lyonsdale, Lewis County. The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) also will conduct research at the Lyonsdale facility in cooperation with the engineering firm of O’Brien & Gere and New Energy Capital, an energy venture capital company.
The facility will use low-grade timber from surrounding North Country forests, as well as willow grown on nearby agricultural lands, to produce cellulosic ethanol, electricity, and other bio-based energy products. SUNY-ESF and Catalyst previously received $60,000 from the State Department of Agriculture and Markets to initiate the nation’s first commercial willow plantation in the Tug Hill area of Jefferson County.
On June 15, 2006, New York State issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit proposals to obtain State grants to design and construct a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol facility.
Cellulosic ethanol (SunOpta presentation at Platt’s Conference, Oct 2006)