|Coskata will use WPC plasma torches for the initial gasification of feedstock. Coskata proprietary microorganisms will ferment the cooled syngas to ethanol. Click to enlarge.|
Coskata Inc., a developer of syngas-to-ethanol technology, has announced the location of a 40,000 gallon per year cellulosic ethanol pilot plant. The $25 million project will be located at the Westinghouse Plasma Center in Madison, PA, the current site of a pilot-plant gasifier owned and operated by Westinghouse Plasma Corporation (WPC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Alter Nrg Corp.
The plant, located about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, is expected to begin delivering ethanol in early 2009 utilizing a variety of input materials, including woody biomass as well as agricultural and industrial wastes. General Motors, a strategic partner and investor in Coskata (earlier post), will use the next generation ethanol for testing in flex-fuel vehicles at its Milford, Mich., Proving Grounds.
Coskata has been eager to reach this milestone, because it will be a significant demonstration before building our first commercial plant that we can produce ethanol from non-food based sources for less than $1 a gallon. This facility is being built with some of the leading gasification technology, supplied by Alter NRG, and in one of the most progressive states for next generation ethanol.—Bill Roe, president and CEO of Coskata
Coskata announced in February that it will commission a full-scale, 50 million - 100 million gallon-per-year commercial plant by the year 2011. This facility is being planned in parallel with the construction of the demonstration facility and is expected to break ground this year.
Coskata leverages proprietary microorganisms and efficient bioreactor designs in a three-step conversion process that can turn virtually any carbon-based feedstock into ethanol, from anywhere in the world. The three steps are:
Gasification. Carbon-based feedstock is converted into syngas using well-established gasification technologies. In the Madison demo plant, plasma torches will super heat feedstock to 1,600°F (871°C), which creates a synthesis gas consisting of carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
At its commercial scale plants, Coskata intends to use WPC Marc-11 plasma torches, which have been proven in metallurgical and waste-to-energy commercial applications throughout the world. The Marc-11 torches have more than 500,000 hours of operation in industrial settings, including a GM foundry in Defiance, Ohio.
A smaller version, the Marc-3, will be used in Coskata’s Madison facility. A WPC Marc-3 has been used in Japan to gasify municipal solid waste for more than five years.
Fermentation. The syngas is cooled to about 100°F (38°C). Coskata’s proprietary microorganisms convert the cooled syngas into ethanol by consuming the carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) in the gas stream.
Separation. Pervaporation technology separates and recovers the ethanol.
Plasma is the term given to a gas that has become ionized—i.e., one where the atoms of the gas have lost one or more electrons and have become electrically charged. Man-made plasma is formed by passing an electrical discharge though a gas such as air or oxygen. The interaction of the electric discharge and the process gas causes the temperature of the gas to increase significantly often exceeding 5,500°C (10,000°F).
WPC’s plasma torches can be fed with process gases of widely varying chemical composition including air, oxygen, nitrogen, argon and others. WPC’s plasma technology can increase the energy of the process gas to between two to ten times higher than conventional combustion.
Coskata’s process for ethanol reduces carbon dioxide lifecycle emissions by as much as 84% compared to conventional gasoline; and has the ability to generate up to 7.7 times as much energy as is required to produce the ethanol, as verified by Argonne National Labs in a well-to-wheel analysis. Additionally, Coskata’s process uses less than a gallon of process water to make a gallon of ethanol, compared with three gallons or more required by other processes.