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US Sugar to Explore Building 100M Gallon Coskata Cellulosic Ethanol Facility Using Sugar Cane Waste

US Sugar Corp. has entered into an agreement with Coskata, Inc to explore building a 100-million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol facility in Clewiston, Florida. The facility, which would be the world’s largest second-generation ethanol facility, would convert left-over sugar cane material into ethanol.

Coskata uses a thermo-biochemical process—it gasifies biomass feedstock or waste to syngas, which is then fermented by microbes to ethanol. (Earlier post.) Using proprietary microorganisms and bioreactor designs, Coskata says that it can produce ethanol for less than US$1.00 per gallon (manufacturing cost) almost anywhere in the world.

Depending on the feedstock and with the cogeneration of bioelectricity or steam export, the Coskata process can result in up to a 96% reduction of CO2 in the production of the fuel and is up to 7.7 times more energy positive compared to conventional gasoline, according to an evaluation Dr. Michael Wang at Argonne National Laboratory.

US Sugar plans to collect cane leaves from the field instead of burning them and also utilize excess bagasse from the mill. As the State of Florida takes some of the US Sugar lands out of production for the Everglades restoration project, the Coskata technology is flexible enough to also use fast growing energy crops and waste materials.

As part of the agreement, US Sugar will be submitting an application to the Florida Energy Office for a financial match to their contribution for early engineering on this project. In addition, US Sugar plans to work with the US Department of Agriculture to secure some of the loan guarantee monies that have been set aside specifically for the production of non-food based biofuels.

We are very excited to be formally negotiating with Coskata to deploy their industry leading conversion technology. We see this technology as a perfect complement to our existing sugar mill, not to mention a win for the environment, the farming community and for our employees.

—US Sugar’s Sr. Vice President of Public Affairs Robert Coker

Coskata is in the process of building its Lighthouse commercial demonstration plant, due to come online early next year, and remains on track for a full commercial plant (the Flagship plant) for the first quarter of 2011. The Flagship plant will have a capacity of 50-100 million gallons per year, and use multiple gasifiers that process 1,500-3,000 dry tons of waste per day. Production cost of the ethanol will be less than $1.00 per gallon, and the capex for the plant will be on the order of $4-5 per gallon capacity (first plant economics). (Earlier post.) The US Sugar plant would be in addition to Coskata’s own Flagship plant, according to Wes Bolsen, Cokasata Chief Marketing Officer & VP.

United States Sugar Corporation is the country’s largest producer of sugar cane and refined cane sugar and is one of Florida’s major producers of oranges and orange juice products.



Awesome. Just awesome.


I hope they can produce ethanol near that price.

This story illustrates how hard it is to know anything about ethanol produced in the US.

US Sugar is a partner with Coskata here. But US Sugar itself and cane growers benefit greatly from sugar price supports provided by our feds. (someone correct me if this has changed in recent years).

So from the beginning we don't know what the cane would cost if government wasn't involved. Then Florida is being asked for matching funds for the engineering.

I can't say what part of total cost would be engineering cost for a first plant. Others may have some facts pertinent to that.

Then the US Department Of Agriculture is asked to guarantee the money borrowed.

And the resulting ethanol will eventually be blended with the blender getting another subsidy from DOE. That was recently discussed in the "splash pump" article at GCC.

And personally I would be surprised if several other subsidies aren't involved by the time the ethanol is pumped into a vehicle.

US Sugar will probably be paid not to burn the cane leaves. Who knows?


Where's the Henry Gibson post that quickly transitions off-topic to the CANDU reactor? Where's the ranting Stas Peterson?


I think this is about saving sugar jobs ---- hopefully most of them will be saved by this.


Well, they are not afraid of taking risk, despite all the fuss about the Cotsaka process, its viability hasn't yet be proven and scalling this process might be more challenging than they think. It has been underlined recently that this process was based on 2 non proven technology : 1 plasma based thermal decomposition, 2 a bio reactor using a bacteria to produce the ethanol. As for the 1$/gallon some simple analysis have pointed that it remains elusive.

Anyway after all the mediatisation it is interesting to see how the migration to an industrial scale can yield, ut keep in mind the claims of "Changing the World" fast depolymerisation process who happend to be a complete failure.

Henry Gibson

There is not enough biomass for making fuel for cars in the US. Yup!; use Candu reactors to power PHEVs and to make hydrogen to ferment with recycled CO2 into ethanol if you must have ethanol. Otherwise make methanol and convert it into gasoline when needed. Sorry for the delayed response. And remember there are 25 potassium atom nuclear explosions in each pound of your body on the average every second. Look it up in Wikipedia under postassium. Also ZEBRA batteries were not yet mentioned as being almost equal to Li batteries in the TH!NK car. They are better than some. ..HG..



The quantity of available biomass for biofuel in US is a controversial topic, numbers like 1.3 billioms tons have been reported then yielding 400 millions tons of equivalent gazoline that could cover much of US comsumption. wether this number is realistic or pure fantasy is still to be determined, here we are.

Zebra battery being kind enough to work at 250C there are definitively not suited for HEV or PHEV applications. NaS battery outperform Li-ion battery by a factor 2 since the 70s and use extremely abundant material there should be everywhere, but they are not since they require to work a temp of 300C. So let's be a bit mor constructive in our criticisms.

Henry Gibson

Thanks for mentioning the NaS battery which is used by power companies in Japan and now in the US. Just directly burning the biomass to produce electricity for electric cars is much more efficient than ethanol. You might find a wood burning cogeneration power plant on the web which goes into this issue in more detail as well as the biomass issue.
In their very well insulated containers both the ZEBRA battery and the NaS battery from NGK are performing quite well. GE tried them in their Hybrid locomotives and trucks because they can work in very hot environments with simple air blast cooling. The price is still too high and much beyond the material costs. Many of the TH!NK cars use the ZEBRA battery which was tested years ago in Europe in various cars for over a million miles. Zebra batteries are currently being used in a UK submarine rescue vehicle by ROLLS-ROYCE.

On one hand there is no reason to put any biomass into land fills and it is not allowed in more and more countries in Europe. Cane residues are a good source of energy for the sugar processors and can be used to produce much power. There is little mention of cogeneration in ethanol plants. No factory that uses heat should not use cogeneration. Thanks to you all. ..HG..

Fred H

Yes, generally, with some exceptions, ethanol without subsidies is currently not competitive with gasoline. In my opinion though, it is only fair to subsidize ethanol as long as gasoline enjoys the unfair advantage of already being firmly established. However, the subsidies should be only just enough to level the playing field to give ethanol a fair chance. Gasoline, by the way, also enjoys indirect subsidies.

Calculating the cost of byproducts is tricky. From my personal experience, the price of a biomass byproduct has ranged from paying someone to get rid of it for us, to selling it for almost the price of the main product from which it is a byproduct of. In practical terms, only the market price counts at any given time.

Currently, batteries are too expensive to be used as the sole power source in most cars. Until that changes, the cleanest and most economical solution is HEVs and PHEVs using natural gas or biofuels for extended range.

Someday, when practical, safe, dependable, compact, high power, high capacity, fast chargeable, environmentally friendly batteries become affordable, Henry Gibson’s visions will come true. Then we can divert all the biofuel to aviation, and stop using petroleum for fuel altogether.


Using residues/wastes to produce liquid fuel (or gas) instead of burning or sending it to harmful landfills is a win-win operation and, as such, should be supported.

As far as subsidies required it could be as much as the direct and indirect cost of landfills and polluting burnings and even a bit more.

If we are serious in our efforts to reduce oil imports, landfills, wastes burnings and pollution; this type of project may be one the acceptable solution.



How do you justify the following statement?
" In my opinion though, it is only fair to subsidize ethanol as long as gasoline enjoys the unfair advantage of already being firmly established."

You can not say that any established company or production method has an unfair advantage per sae simply because it is the established method!


My apologies, HarveyD. That post should have been directed to Fred H.



"You can not say that any established company or production method has an unfair advantage per sae simply because it is the established method!"

Sure you can! Look at what's happened with oil. It has a massive economies of scale advantage, built up over the last 100 years. It is in the oil industry's best interest to not support alternative technologies which would diminish and eventually overtake oil as an energy system.

Clearly, solar power is a much better energy production technology in every single way. What it lacks is a good history of economies-of-scale price reductions and necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention innovations because oil has always been there as an alternative.

It's like a tree seedling growing in a gap in the forest. You might have 10 trees battling to become dominant and to get the light so they can grow to become the new dominant tree. But the one that gets a slight advantage first is the one that wins, and it progressively shades out and kills the others. That's how economies of scale works, at least with the oil industry, especially when the dominant seedling (the oil industry) has a vested interest in seeing the other technologies fail, and the oil industry is the industry with the financial might to be able to throw at developing alternative technologies.

I can't help but ponder what the world would be like today if there was no such thing as fossil fuels. We would have developed high efficiency solar panels 50 years ago (necessity is the mother of invention), and by now everyone would have cheap PV panels all over their cars and houses and be producing their own cheap electrical power, with no $300 a month royalty fee to the oil companies. I bet energy would be cheaper than it is right now! Ironic!


K brings up an interesting point. Not to move too far off the article's subject but I've been looking recently at the convoluted subsidy/tax/tariff situation and how it relates to ethanol production. Wow, what a tangled web we weave... The ironic fact of the matter is that the loan/price-fixing tariff setup that we have in place for sugar has moved industry to use cheaper corn sweeteners. High fructose corn syrup is a replacement of the more expensive sugar. The subsidies for sugar go to a very, very small number of businesses. Sugar is about double the price in the US compared to other countries. In fact candy manufacturing has moved to Canada and Mexico for this very reason. USDA pegs corn sweetener using about 5% of the corn crop.

I do hate it when they set arbitrary production cost numbers on a new type of plant – Lighthouse hasn’t come on-line so they simply don’t know the reality yet. If they are unable to meet the number it makes it harder for the next one to get funding.

Another point made upstream; two technologies that are unproven. Actually the plasma breakdown piece is well proven in a number of plants with many more coming on-line. Plasma gasification is nothing new. Municipal waste to syngas is old hat. The trick of the process is in the reactor vessel where they turn that syngas into liquid fuel. Whether it's using a biologic process or a catalyst process this is where the rubber meets the road. Early catalyst processes have proven very expensive; one example is the need for a constant stream of pure oxygen to be injected into the reactor. Ask a welder how expensive simple oxygen is. Another the need for very expensive scrubbers before entering the reactor. Most biologic-based processes never make it out of the highly controlled lab setting. I'm hoping that these bacteria are ready for prime-time.

That being said...loan guarantees and seed money for a promising technology that gets away from grain-based ethanol production…I'll go with a yes on this. Yes, it’s part of a shotgun approach but these biomass/cellulosic technologies need to be investigated. Spend a little more on this now and maybe a little less on aircraft carriers later…

Electrification of most of our transportation sector is happening and will continue to happen – it must happen. The technology is here, but it still costs a bundle and is just now starting to compete. If it happened tomorrow our existing grid would come to a screeching halt. We’ll need some serious upgrades to the distribution infrastructure before it can handle it. Smart inter-ties and meters just to start. Do we have any idea how difficult it is to get a new high-KV line built? Land acquisition is the most difficult part of that equation. Just saw a big project in PA go down for the count a month or so ago (NIMBY). This stuff takes decades to bring on. We’ll need a lot of new plants too. Yep I’m with Henry on this one – more nukes! But I’ll wager a dollar to a high-fructose donut that it’ll take more than a decade to get the first one on-line, even with a massive push from Washington. Yes, more wind, more PV, get the costs down to competitive levels. I don’t mind subsidizing the capital costs to get it off the ground. Let’s not forget the lowest hanging fruit of all, more conservation.

Let’s be realistic here though, liquid fuel is not going away anytime soon. Our problem is that we have no real choice in the matter. Because there is no choice, oil has become a strategic commodity. A strategic commodity that requires billons to be spent defending its free flow while at the same time bankrolling entities that we're defending against. Break the monopoly that oil has on transportation fuel and the world becomes a safer place.

Meanwhile we’re putting 12 million new vehicles on the road every year that are designed with a maximum 10% alcohol mix. How about while we get our shite together on electrifying our fleet we give consumers the choice on what fuel they use? It takes an average of approx. 17 years for a car bought tomorrow to be replaced. Can we wait?

Require all passenger vehicles that come off the line be flex capable. Every car in Brazil now has to be able to use a 25% blend. Further, full flex vehicles as of July 2008 enjoy a 88% market share there. That’s up from 22% only 4 years ago! Allow the demand to make winners out of some of these technologies. Allow the consumer to choose whose pocket he lines.


I found there was already a bill introduced that pushed some of the items I support - way back in '06. It never became law but probably should have:

Tax kickbacks to big oil to have pumps in 50% of their retail outlets. Because big oil needs more grease...

Requirement of a graduating percentage of new vehicles to be flex capable - 100% by 2016. Very slow IMO but it would have been a start... For what it's worth the automakers have already "pledged" to have 50% flex capable by 2012. "As long as the infrastructure is there."

Then H.R. 6734 introduced in July of '08 that proposes to simply increase the tax break to for from 30% up to 50% of the cost of puting in the pumps and tanks up to $100k max. At least this one didn't limit the kickbacks to big oil...but it also doesn't mandate the flex capablitiy.

Oh and while I was putzin around looking at these two bills, we just sent another $1,480,182.64 overseas for oil...



How is the advantage unfair because it is established? Clearly oil is the established dominant fuel source because it was so cheap for so many years. I would also say that the industrial revolution would have had a difficult time happening without coal for steam engines and oil for internal combustion engines. How can you question the impact oil had on creating our high standard of living?

I love the idea of moving away from oil consumption, because oil is... a finite resource. However, to suggest that we would be better off without ever using it is silly. Furthermore, companies like BP and ConocoPhillips are investing heavily in alternative energies. Our economy has been built on cheap energy we could pump and dig out of the ground, but there are billions of dollars being spent for R&D by private companies on ultracapacitors, batteries, CIGS thin film panels, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, etc.

I ask again. How can you deny the positive impact oil has had on our economy and our way of life?

James Pot

Oil was never cheap. The fact that we did not place a high monetary value on it did not make it cheap. There may have been a time that that was the only parameter we used, but that time is fast disapearing over our polluted horizon. The oil age has cost us dearly and will cost our children and children's children. No,I completely agree that if we would have had a solar derived energy structure we would have been better off but of course hindsight is . . . Still it may not be too late and there are some good noises coming out of Mississauga and Ottawa (both in Ontario, Canada) that seem to promise efficient and fairly affordable solar within three years, or there about


>> HarveyD

Suggest you follow this link for updates on what happens to most cane and sorghum stalks after crushing and extraction of juice. Landfill... NOT


And yes, they (HC&S) on Maui still burns cane fields prior to harvest (AO 2004 when I lived there) and locals are still in uproar over smoke and pollution.


Fred H

Hi Bryan. Did I say per se? I thought I specifically said with gasoline.
Your criticism of “unfair” is justified, but it depends on your definition of unfair. Would “unequalizing” be a more accurate description of the advantages that gasoline enjoys because it is well established?
Paul: Excellent comments!


And don't forget another cost of oil: huge military establishment to guarantee access to middle east oil.

"subsidies" for sugar are more in the form of tarrifs on imports, and banning cuban sugar. in florida the sugar industry has polluted lake Okeechobee, so that's another unmeasured subsidy (because never held accountable).



No you did not, i suppose I included 'per sae' as an implication from your statement. While I don't support full subsidization of alternatives (or any industry, for that matter), I 100% support research grants in the areas of alternatives. In my opinion, the only way to find a market solution that is as close to efficient while keeping 'hidden costs of polution' in mind.. would be to spur research in these areas to find the best solution.


I am a full order of magnitude more excited when companies innovate an alternative; sustainable solution than when it is pushed by a legislature. Specifically, I'm excited for energy storage solutions from EEStor and a123systems. Either company could be a game changer in terms of how we power our cars as energy storage seems to be the last big hurdle towards electrification of cars.



Yes, most agriculture waste can be converted into energy and many other products. The cellulosic liquid fuel route is interesting to reduce oil imports.

Unfortunately, bagasse burning is still common place in Maui and many other places.

Max Reid

Excellent news.

There are 13 million flexfuel vehicles using Ethanol in the world. But there is no plugin hybrids at this point of time. So let this facility come and benefit the people.

FYI : 2/3 of all gas stations in US sell E10 and another 1800 stations sell E85.

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