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Xethanol in New Venture to Produce Ethanol from Waste Citrus Peels; Process Based on USDA Research

Xethanol Corporation has formed a venture with Renewable Spirits, LLC for the purpose of building a biomass-based pilot production facility that will utilize waste citrus peels as feedstock for ethanol production. The venture is located in Bartow, Florida, the heart of the state’s citrus industry.

Citrus waste is rich in pectin, cellulose and hemicellusic polysaccharides, which can be hydrolyzed into sugars and fermented into ethanol. In Florida alone, citrus processing yields about 5 million tons of wet waste annually, or about 1.2 million tons of dry waste, most of which is currently marketed as low-value feed for cattle. A citrus-to-ethanol process could yield up to 80 million gallons of ethanol per year just from Florida citrus waste, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The venture is expected to establish a pilot plant to produce up to 50,000 gallons of ethanol this harvesting season. The pilot plant, which will increase to more than 500,000 gallons per year, is co-located at a facility owned and operated by Peace River Citrus Products, Inc., a leading producer of orange and grapefruit juice and other citrus products.

Slated to begin production by the second quarter of 2007, the program plans to utilize a production technology process, developed through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the USDA that will convert waste citrus biomass into ethanol, as well as other marketable co-products, such as limonene and citrus oil, to improve the economics of fuel production.

USDA work on the producing ethanol from peels began in 1992, but was shelved due to the low cost of gasoline and the use of other oxygenates (such as MTBE) within gasoline. In 2004, however, Bill Widmer, an ARS chemist at Winter Haven, modified the process to reduce substantially the amount of enzyme required to convert citrus-waste carbohydrates to the sugars which serve as the fermentation feedstock for ethanol. His project was partly funded by Renewable Spirits. (Earlier post.)

In building the pilot production facility, Xethanol will utilize equipment and production processes from its Permeate Refining test facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This facility had been a pilot plant for testing various sugar based feedstocks, and the lessons learned and processing techniques from its operation will be applied to the new citrus project. The inclusion of the Permeate equipment will allow the Company to evaluate and maximize this technology in a much timelier manner.

We are extremely proud to be partnering with leading scientists from the USDA to extend their breakthrough work into the pilot production phase.

—David Ames, president and CEO of Xethanol

Renewable Spirits, an investor group, has spent the last two years working with the USDA to develop the technology used in the pilot plant, and has been successful in removing limonene from the peel, allowing for the fermentation of the sugars in the peel and batch distillation of ethanol at the USDA laboratory in Winter Haven, FL. USDA scientists say this is the first facility of its kind.



Adam Galas

With such exciting alternative fuel news coming out daily, I am confident that peak oil, as long as it dosn't strike until 2015 or later, will not effect our lives in any traumatic fashion.

There are simply too many bright people working on too many solutions.

With the recent breakthrough of 40.7% efficent solar cells, and MIT's new battery design that uses virus construction methods,(3X better energy density than today's best lithium ion battery) Electric cars will become practical by 2015, and cheap solar power will be available to charge it.

Throw in algea biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, waste methane power plants that funnel co2 into algea tanks, nuclear power, wind, ect, and you can see that America will not run out of energy anytime soon.


You know, they make it sound like Florida is just one state of many with an orange peel problem. Once they've set up in Florida, and California, doesn't that represent most of the available supply? If not from a strict availability standpoint, at least from a standpoint of a high enough volume and areal density to make collection and transportation efficient enough?

Paul Dietz

You know, they make it sound like Florida is just one state of many with an orange peel problem. Once they've set up in Florida, and California, doesn't that represent most of the available supply?

Color me optimistic, but I bet the technology will work in other countries too.

Some Jerk

yes, I'd imagine Brazil will jump on board to further increase their ethanol exports, as they are the world's largest citrus producer...


_Using what you have is a way around. Agri/forestry waste will suffice, with BTL. Biodegradable garbage could be another source.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Only citrus peels would be used, Jason, not the actual fruit. And since peels are waste material usually removed, that waste could be put to better use. And it would be a better option too than using food crops like corn, sugarcane, etc.


There seem to be posting problems...


Unfortunately the transition from an oil based economy will probably not go smoothly. Although the innovations that are helping to curb it are exiting and defiantly progress the sheer volume of what must be done to make a change or a smooth transition will not likely happen.

Every Empire and culture or system that has collapsed over the last several thousand years has been in part due to loss of resources or wars over remaining resources that were finite in supply. Nothing has changed. The transition to renewable fuels will certainly be around for a long time, we have no choice.

Just as the transition from horse drawn carriages to horseless carriages was one hundred years ago, the new innovations were a luxury for the rich that happened to expand and grow with the discovery of fossil fuels, and the innovations to use them they way they were and have been as they are still. Economics is all that played into the lifestyles most people aspire to want to have today. And economics will play the role in the limitation of what is available in the future. If a resources is not there or so expensive the common person can not afford it. Its just not gonna be there. hence why only a selective few people have private Jets today, if you cant afford one, and don't need one, your not gonna have one! Most likely using alt fuels and energy only 1/3 of what we have in todays population is going to be able to afford and have the lifestyle that the middle class has today because that will be the resource limitations.
bottom line, history repeats its self no matter what because people don't learn from previous failures and mistakes of other civilizations. And it takes a catastrophic change to get a para dime shift to a different direction. Usually war on a scale large enough to lower populations. Adding up the numbers in 100 years we either need serious industrial breakthroughs on a scale never before seen or need to somehow cut our current population in half or more of todays levels and maintain it.
no matter how opportunistically you look at it, the only real answers are very ugly with only a select few getting the benefits.

I do hope that there are breakthroughs so history does not repeat its self.

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