SunOpta’s BioProcess Group has signed a contract to sell a cellulosic ethanol pilot demonstration facility, based on SunOpta’s patented and proprietary biomass conversion technology, to China Resources Alcohol Corporation (CRAC) for research and development on cellulosic ethanol production at their facility in ZhaoDong City, Heilongjiang Province.
As part of the transaction, SunOpta and CRAC intend to enter into a Joint Development Agreement between SunOpta, CRAC and Novozymes for the development of cellulosic ethanol in the People’s Republic of China.
The Chinese central government recently announced a US$5.0-billion investment over the next 10 years on ethanol capacity expansion with a focus on cellulosic ethanol. China is currently the world’s third-largest producer of ethanol behind the US and Brazil, producing more than 1 billion gallons of all grades in 2005.
CRAC is the second-largest ethanol producer in China. CRAC’s goal is to install 5,000 tonnes per year (1.7 Million US gallons per year) of cellulosic ethanol capacity by the end of 2007 and 1,000,000 tonnes per year (330 million US gallons per year) by 2012 utilizing multiple lines of SunOpta’s proprietary process technology and equipment.
Based upon completion of final details, the companies anticipate that this cellulosic ethanol research facility will start up in late 2006.
SunOpta is also supplying its steam explosion equipment and process technology to a subsidiary of Abengoa for the first commercial production facility in the world to convert cereal straw into ethanol. (Earlier post.)
The SunOpta Bioprocess Group has been designing, building and optimizing biomass conversion plants for more than thirty years. End products include cellulosic ethanol, cellulosic butanol, xylitol and dietary fiber for human consumption. Raw materials include wheat straw, corn stover, grasses, oat hulls, wood chips and sugarcane bagasse.
Novozymes is a world leader in the production of enzymes necessary to convert corn or agricultural waste, such as corn stover, wheat straw and wood chips, into fuel ethanol for automobiles. In 2005, the company and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) concluded a four-year, $17.1 million initiative to reduce the cost of enzymes required to produce fuel ethanol from biomass waste to $0.10–$0.18 per gallon—a 30-fold reduction since 2001. (Earlier post.)