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INEOS Bio to Commercialize BRI Thermochemical/Biochemical Waste-to-Ethanol Process

The INEOS Bio waste-to-ethanol process. Click to enlarge.

INEOS, the world’s third largest chemical company, has formed INEOS Bio to commercialize and license a thermochemical and biochemical process from Bioengineering Resources, Inc. (BRI) (earlier post) for the production of biofuel, renewable power and chemical intermediates from a wide range of low-cost carbon materials.

INEOS Bio’s initial focus will be the production of commercial quantities of bioethanol fuel from biodegradable municipal solid waste (MSW), organic commercial waste and agricultural residues. INEOS Bio expects the first commercial plant will be operational in late 2010 or early 2011.

The BRI process, developed by a team led by Dr. James L. Gaddy, utilizes a culture of acetogenic bacteria (Clostridium ljungdahlii) that ingests syngas and emits ethanol at a yield of some 75 gallons or more per dry ton of biomass. From used tires or hydrocarbons it can yield approximately 150 gallons or more per ton, according to the developers.

Now called the INEOS Bio process, it comprises three main steps:

  1. Gasification of the prepared organic carbon material using oxygen to produce synthesis gas. The hot synthesis gas is quenched and cleaned. Heat is recovered to generate renewable power.

  2. The cleaned, cooled synthesis gas is passed into a fermentation process, where it is consumed by anaerobic bacteria and turned into ethanol. The fermentation broth contains a carefully controlled mixture of nutrients to deliver a reliably high yield of ethanol production. The bacteria achieve a very high selectivity to ethanol. The high yield and high selectivity translate to an outstanding process efficiency and leading production economics. The off-gas from the fermenter is used to produce additional power and heat.

  3. The ethanol solution is purified to make anhydrous ethanol (>99.7% ethanol). This is subsequently blended into gasoline.

Two independent life cycle assessments on the production of INEOS Bioethanol from waste biomass both indicate that GHG savings of > 90% vs. gasoline should be achieved.

Research on the process began in Arkansas in 1989, and the BRI team built a pilot plant outside of Fayetteville that has been operating continuously on a range of waste materials since 2003. The BRI group in Arkansas has joined with INEOS to form the INEOS Bio team.

INEOS is a leading manufacturer of petrochemicals, specialty chemicals and oil products. Comprising 18 businesses, with a production network spanning 70 manufacturing facilities in 14 countries, the company produces more than 40 million tonnes of petrochemicals, 20 million tons per annum of crude oil refined products.



It will help displace some petrol and clean the environment. Nearly all trashs can be converted in fuel.
Im always dissapointed when i go to the restroom and learn that it will not fuel my car and that the authorities in u.s.a and canada have decided to use foods directly to ethanol instead.


75 gal/ton is considerably less than synthetic systems can achieve (110 gal/ton claimed) and much less than 50% efficiency.  How much of this comes out as electricity?  Not stated in the article.

As long as there is a need to separate a dilute ethanol solution into anhydrous EtOH and water, there will be large losses in the process.


I agree that the production rates are lower.

About the energy losses, I think that an overall energy balance has to be made to confirm whether the biochemical route to produce ethanol is better than the thermochemical route.

The direct conversion of syngas (CO + H2) to ethanol is a subject of intense research. Typically, the synthesis of methanol (CH3OH) from syngas is relatively facile, but going from methanol to higher alcohols (ethanol included) is not straightforward (both in terms of yield and selectivity). Therefore, one may face high energy costs in separating ethanol from the alcohol solutions. This may be still the single most energy intensive step in the process.


Can anyone explain how exactly the bacteria gets the hydrogen/carbon monoxide? These gases should have a very low solubility in the fermentation broth, and consequently this should be a very low efficiency process. are the gases bubbled through the broth? What happens to the portion that the bacteria does not use? Is it recycled?

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