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Sunopta Updates on Current Cellulosic Ethanol Projects

SunOpta Inc. provided an update on the status of four cellulosic ethanol projects which are or will be operational using SunOpta’s technology and equipment to produce ethanol from a variety of cellulosic biomass including woodchips, corn stover, sugar cane bagasse, and wheat straw.

SunOpta provides systems for the preparation and pretreatment of biomass for the production of cellulosic ethanol and other renewable fuels.

SunOpta had provided a similar update on its cellulosic ethanol work in January 2006. At that time, only one of the four projects listed below (Abengoa) was in process.

China Resources Alcohol Corporation (CRAC). CRAC has announced their intention to construct sufficient cellulosic ethanol facilities to generate 330 million gallons of ethanol by 2012. SunOpta provided its systems and technology to CRAC in September 2006 and the plant began production of ethanol from local corn stover in October 2006. (Earlier post.)

Novozymes is working with the two companies on the enzymes side.

This facility is reported to be the first cellulosic ethanol production facility operational in the People’s Republic of China. The SunOpta system is currently operating on a continuous basis and steps are currently being taken to scale the SunOpta process up to full commercial levels for use in future plants in China.

China has committed $5 billion to cellulosic ethanol production and recently announced that they would allow no further increase in ethanol production from starch (corn), due to the needs for starch as food. (Earlier post.)

Abengoa Bioenergy R&D Inc. (Abengoa). Key components of SunOpta’s equipment and technology have recently been shipped to Spain for the start up of the Abengoa wheat straw to ethanol facility located in Salamanca, Spain. (Earlier post.) This project is expected to start up in the summer of 2007 and will be the first commercial production facility in the world producing cellulosic ethanol from wheat straw. Abengoa is the largest producer of ethanol in Europe and the second-largest in the world.

Celunol Inc. (Celunol). SunOpta’s equipment and technology will be used in a new Celunol facility being built in Jennings, Louisiana, to produce ethanol from sugarcane bagasse and wood. This will be the first commercial production of cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States and is scheduled to start up in the summer of 2007. (Earlier post.)

Celunol technology—he key element of which is genetically engineered Escherichia coli bacteria that can ferment both C6 (hexose) and C5 (pentose) sugars—is being used by BioEthanol Japan in its new plant that produces cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste. (Earlier post.)

GreenField Ethanol Inc. (GreenField). SunOpta recently announced the formation of a joint venture with GreenField Ethanol Inc., Canada’s largest producer of ethanol. The purpose of this Joint Venture is to design, build and jointly own and operate plants producing ethanol from wood chips. The first plant is planned to produce 10 million gallons of ethanol per year, which achieves the widely-accepted threshold for commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production and will demonstrate the immediate commercial viability of cellulosic ethanol. (Earlier post.)


Harvey D.

This is good news for cellulosic ethanol.

China is being much more responsible than North America by switching from grain/corn/food ethanol to cellulosic ethanol. A better choice yet may be cellulosic nbutanol. Any news on the Dupont/BP trial.

Heavy reliance on corn/food ethanol will have a major effect on food price within a very short time frame. The price of corn as already gone up from about $2/bushel to $4/bushel and will most probably reach $5 or even $6/bushel when the new planned ethanol plants are in operation.

USA should do like China and favour cellulosic ethanol/butanol production starting NOW. A complete ban on corn ethanol is not required but a cap, at a sustainable level, is urgently needed.


I don't know if there is already a planned phaseout (hopefully) of the ethanol blending subsidy, or if it's indefinite. But it seems the subsidy is going too far; it's distorting the corn market. A phaseout of the subsidy for starch-based ethanol seems like the best way to remedy the situation while still encouraging cellulosic sources.


Sunopta is doing an incredible job in cellulosic research, development, and now production support. With the maturation of the cellulosic ethanol industry and the nano batteries in series hybrid vehicles as the Chevy Volt concept, we are quickly looking to the end of oil for transportation. I'd like to see more news on using switchgrass for ethanol production than wood chips and suger cane. Wood chips and suger cane is a scary path to tread as forests and suger production will be affected with these processes of producing cellulosic ethanol.


Yes but wood chips can easily be derived from waste materials (Christmas trees, construction waste, etc...). In Colorado, the vast number of pines killed by beetles could also be used.


The U.S. government requests bids for contracts to thin forests of dead trees from bark beetle and other causes, to lower fire danger. This could be a dual purpose contract to reduce fire danger and create fuel for transporation.

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