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Renergie, Inc. Receives $1.5M Grant for Sweet Sorghum Ethanol Plant

Renergie, Inc. is receiving $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program to design and build Florida’s first sweet sorghum juice mechanical harvesting system and ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice.

Renergie, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Florida, was formed in 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Each ethanol plant in Louisiana has a production capacity of 5 million gallons per year of fuel-grade ethanol. Renergie plans an initial network of 10 plants with a combined production capacity of 50 million gallons. Renergie intends to replicate its Louisiana decentralized network of ethanol plants in Florida.

Renergie produces ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. The advantages of producing ethanol directly from sweet sorghum juice are:

  • High Yield. Sweet sorghum juice yields between 500 to 800 gallons of ethanol per acre;

  • Water Efficient Crop. Sweet sorghum requires one-half of the water required to grow corn and one third of the water required to grow sugarcane;

  • Ability to Grow in Marginal Soil . Sweet sorghum can grow in marginal soils, ranging from heavy clay to light sand.  Sweet sorghum has been called a “camel among crops,” owing to its wide adaptability, its marked resistance to drought and saline-alkaline soils, and tolerance to high temperature and waterlogging;

  • Lower nitrogen use. Sweet sorghum requires the use of only 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre whereas corn growers use more than 150 pounds per acre, according to the US. Environmental Protection Agency.  Less fertilizer reduces the risk of water contamination.  Producing ethanol from sweet sorghum rather than increasing corn-to-ethanol production, reduces the risk of the continued formation of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico;

  • Rapid Growth. Sweet sorghum takes only 4 months to reach maturity, which is short enough to allow harvesting twice a year.  Sugarcane requires 14 months to reach maturity; and

  • Energy Efficient. The energy requirement for converting sweet sorghum juice into ethanol is less than half of that required to convert corn into ethanol.  This is due to the fact that the sugars in sweet sorghum juice are fermented directly.  There is no need to excessively heat the juice to breakdown starch into sugars as required for corn.

In 2007, China and India produced 1.3 billion gallons of ethanol from sweet sorghum juice.  The Renergie project will be the first time that ethanol will be produced solely from sweet sorghum juice in the US, although other companies are targeting its use. (Earlier post.)

The distributed nature of a smaller ethanol production plant network reduces Renergie’s feedstock supply risk, does not burden local water supplies and provides broad-based economic development, according to the company.

Renergie is focusing its efforts on growing ethanol demand beyond the 10% blend market.  Initially, Renergie will directly market E85 to fuel retailers under the brand Renergie E85.  Renergie proposes blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump.  Currently, ethanol providers blend E10 and E85 at their blending terminal and transport the already blended product to retail gas stations.

 

Should they receive state approval, Renergie’s variable blending pumps will be able to offer the consumer a choice of E10, E20, E30 and E85.  Via use of the Blender’s Tax Credit, Renergie says it will be able to ensure that gas station owners are adequately compensated for each gallon of fuel-grade ethanol that is sold via Renergie’s variable blending pumps at their gas stations.

Renergie was one of eight recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The other projects selected for funding are:

  • Central Florida Regional Transit Authority (LYNX), to implement a large-scale alternative fuel research and demonstration project that provides biodiesel blending at a central fueling location. By 2010, Orange County, LYNX and Orlando Utilities Commission will have transitioned their entire diesel fleet to biodiesel blended fuel.

  • Exceed Corporation, to develop a profitable model for replication that will provide solutions to up-front cost barriers for renewable energy investments for Florida developers.

  • Florida Power and Light, to construct the first wind energy facility in Florida.  As proposed, nine wind turbine generation units would be placed in St. Lucie County and are expected to have the potential capacity of 20 megawatts of electrical power.

  • Florida Solar Energy Research and Education Foundation, to accelerate the use of solar energy in Florida by reducing market barriers by collaborating with industry experts as well as developing marketing materials and an outreach campaign.

  • Orange County Government, to enable the completion of a demonstration, research and education program through the installation of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) system in the South, a one megawatt solar PV system located at the Orange County Convention Center.

  • Progress Energy Florida, to evaluate inland opportunities for wind energy generation in Florida by using five wind turbines at five different locations across the state, providing more than 15,000 kilowatt hours of wind generation annually.

  • Vecenergy, to build and operate a biodiesel facility capable of producing 37.5 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

Comments

Mark A

Well, there goes our relatively cheap syrup and molasses food prices, and other foods using them in their ingredients, if this is established.

Sweet sorghum is somewhat easier to grow than corn, requiring less initial inputs than corn. But repeated growing of sweet sorghum year after year will require increasing fertilizer inputs, or crop rotations. This IS a better idea than corn gasohol, but not by much. This sorghum must be handled and processed shortly after taken from the field to get the required product, not allowed to dry, if as according to the article the "juice" is processed. (Corn, on the other hand, is used after it matures and is a dry crop, being easier to schedule for use.) What worries me is that this "crop" may require a much tighter harvest "window" than other sorghum crops, to optimise the quantity and quality of the "juice". Everyone knows this is weather affected. Hurricane season will be active most likely around the time this "crop" is ready to be harvested. Remember the two states mentioned in the story, Florida and Louisiana. Could be a devasting blow. This is not an ideal solution. Perhaps we should put more of our development dollars into BEV!!!

The use of corn for ethanol production has resulted in a [corn products] price increase of about 5%. So the prohibitive food prices argument is utterly, completely moot. Give it up already.
If you are still losing sleep over this, I'll mail you a dollar every year to make up for your more expensive syrup.

Jay Tee

The use of corn for ethanol production has resulted in a [corn products] price increase of about 5%. So the prohibitive food prices argument is utterly, completely moot. Give it up already.
If you are still losing sleep over this, I'll mail you a dollar every year to make up for your more expensive syrup.

word

Sounds like it's not that bad for a 1st generation biofuel source. You could possibly get 4 times the amount of ethanol per acre compared to corn if you can fit in 2 growing seasons a year.

Mark A, you commented on the risk of hurricanes. That's probably why they are going for a de-centralized network of plants. So if a few get knocked out, there is still a few more to take up the slack. But you are dead-on about the short processing time. It'll be a big bottle neck if there's a lot of growers harvesting at the same time.

Mark A

I am not talking about the plants, I am talking about the crop being damaged in a hurricane!

This sweet sorghum has a relatively short growing period of 4 months(4 months seems long to me!?) according to the article, but it will not grow year around, so there definately could be a bottleneck at harvest time, all hitting around the same time every year.

And only a fool would think that growing crops for fuel for our SUV's, and not for our bellies, is a bad idea. All of this ethanol industry, including the corn gasohol currently being made, is still in its infancy. There are many ethanol plants on the drawing board and under construction. Yes there will be a problem if they want to maximize production. And I dont think they are building these plants to run them at partial capacity!

Send me the dollar via PayPal!

Harvey D

Jay Tee:

I don't know where you got the stats on corn price but you seem to be way off. Here they are:

1) Avg 2004/05 = $2.06
2) Avg 2005/06 = $2.00
3) Avg 2006/07 = $3.40
4) End 2007 = $4.04

Corn price went up about 100% in a bit more than one year.

USA produce about 6 billion bushels of corn a year; 1/3 is used for feed, 1/3 is exported and 1/3 is used for ethanol production.

Accumulated surpluses and overproduction has kept the recent price increase at around the +100% level. As ethanol production goes up by 200+ %, surpluses and exports will drop to almost zero and price may very well go up another 100+% within the next 12 to 24 months.

In 2007:

Bread (USA) was up 12%
Milk (USA) was up 29%
Eggs (USA) were up 24%
Pasta (Italy) up 20%
Corn meal (Mexico) up 60%

Unless we have a worldwide recession or two bumper crops, this trend will continue in 2008/09 or until such times as we switch from corn-gain etanol to cellulosic ethanol-biofuels.

Have your pick.

sjc

"Renergie’s variable blending pumps will be able to offer the consumer a choice of E10, E20, E30 and E85."

This is what I was wondering about, blend at the pump. It seems like a reasonable way to go. If a car can not take E20, then they select E10 and so on.

Ben

First generation biofuels did contribute to increase corns prices, then again expensive oil and the dropping dollar contributed more.

sjc

If they can get 400 gallons per acre of ethanol using corn, they can probably get about that amount from using only half of the corn stover (stalks and cobs). Half the stalks have to be plowed back into the soil, but the cobs are almost a free resource that they would like to find a use for. They went so far as to make activated charcoal out of them to use in Adsorbed Natural Gas tanks. Where there is a will, there is a way...usually.

Harvey D

Ben & sjC:

Europe is forecasting a 40% to %50 rise in wheat price in 2007 due to:

1) very low grain reserves.

2) farmers switching to corn to meet increased ethanol production.

3) bad crops in Australia, Moroco, NZ, Kazaakstan and other places due lack of rain.

It is fair to expect a similar rise in corn price.

Since corn is used to feed animals, people and ethanol plants, increased demand and competition will push the price up for many years. By 2010/11, 50+% (instead of the current 33%) of the USA corn production will go to ethanol plants. If all the planned ethanol plants materialize, 66+% of the corn produced will be convered to fuel.

sjc

That would be stupid to do, but it is their stupidity and there is nothing I nor any one of us can do about it. They will learn their lesson..or won't. Big money and big power out gun anything anyone can say on a blog...we are just typing into cyberspace.

Engineer-Poet
USA produce about 6 billion bushels of corn a year
Try double that; the 2004 crop was 11.8 bushels, and we've set new records since.
Engineer-Poet

er, 11.8 BILLION bushels.

sjc

There are 90 million acres in production. 2007 was the largest corn crop since 1945. What they were doing with all that corn back then, I have no idea.

CEO

They were feeding all of Europe with that corn in 1945 since everything there was destroyed due to the war.

sjc

That makes sense. Another reason we had the boom in the 50s, we were the only one left standing. Then "competiveness" (which is not really a word) was used as an excuse to downsize and outsource jobs and the rest is history.

Bob

Isn't ethanol(corn,sweet sorghum,etc) very water intensive.I heard 3-4 gallons of water to create 1 gallon of ethanol.In water restrictive Florida does this not create another problem?

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