Sweetwater Energy and Ace Ethanol to begin commercial production of cellulosic ethanol; potential contract value of $100M
|Flow chart of a portion of Sweetwater’s distributed hydrolysis process to produce C5 and C6 sugar streams from biomass. Source: Sweetwater patent application. Click to enlarge.|
Sweetwater Energy, Inc., a Rochester NY-based cellulosic sugar producer (earlier post), announced a long-term commercial agreement with Ace Ethanol, a Stanley, WI-based corn ethanol production facility, to generate cellulosic ethanol at Ace’s plant for up to 16 years.
Sweetwater’s patented, decentralized hydrolysis process will convert locally available cellulosic, non-food biomass, such as crop residues, energy crops, and woody biomass into highly fermentable sugar, which Ace will ferment into ethanol. The entire contract has a total potential value in excess of $100 million, and requires a minimal capital outlay by Ace Ethanol while stabilizing Ace’s feedstock cost over the life of the agreement.
Sweetwater Energy’s technology generates separate and concentrated individual streams of C and C6 sugars, which can be sold to biorefineries, which use it to produce biofuels, biochemicals, and bioplastics.
This technology allows economics previously not achievable on the small scale, allowing Sweetwater to utilize biomass within just a few miles of a processor and therefore reducing transportation and storage expenses.
The Sweetwater-Ace agreement entails Sweetwater placing one of its cellulosic facilities adjacent to the Ace Ethanol site, and delivering enough refined monomeric sugar for Ace to produce up to 3.6 million gallons of ethanol per year during the initial phase of the relationship. The economics afforded by Sweetwater’s cellulosic sugar and the patented hub-and-spoke distributed model will ultimately determine the pace and volume with which Ace’s corn ethanol facility will migrate to Sweetwater’s cellulosic feedstocks.
Ace Ethanol has been bench testing Sweetwater’s cellulosic material for some time and we’re confident that this project will be commercially profitable. With Sweetwater, we’ll move from 100% corn to a combination of corn starch and 7% cellulosic sugar as our feedstocks.—Neal Kemmet, President of Ace Ethanol