UK-based TMO Renewables Ltd, the developer of a novel thermophilic bacterium and process for converting biomass into fuel ethanol (earlier post), has entered into an exclusive contract with Fiberight LLC to design and build waste to bioethanol plants in the US. The contract, which lasts for 20 years, is potentially worth in excess of $25 million per annum, the companies said.
The plants will combine the TMO Process, which optimizes waste feedstock conversion using a specialty bio-organism, and Fiberight’s fractionation and digestion technology, to improve the conversion of municipal solid waste (MSW) and associated cellulosic waste into ethanol.
Under the terms of the agreement, it is anticipated that 15 plants will be designed and constructed across the US within the next five years. For each plant, TMO will receive an initial, one-off design fee plus recurring annual revenue. The site and funding for the first plant has already been secured and construction is expected to begin in 2011. The next five sites have also been identified and Fiberight has agreed to commission a number of plants throughout the US each year.
Fiberight uses a cost-effective process involving digestion and fractionation to sort non-recyclable MSW, 102 million tonnes of which is generated each year in the US, into a ‘clean fibre’ stream. This material feeds directly into TMO’s process which uses a unique bacterium to efficiently convert the biomass into ethanol.
Fiberight’s process recovers potentially over 80% of residential waste into valuable biofuels and recyclables with no external energy or water inputs. The collaboration between TMO and Fiberight now enables a process to convert MSW to valuable biofuel with the minimum of air and water emissions.
TMO has already achieved project yields in excess of 90 US gallons per ton (dry weight) at pilot scale by processing MSW feedstock from Fiberight at its own demonstration facility in the UK. The metrics support the scalability and economics to achieve attractive conversion of waste biomass into cellulosic ethanol.
In addition to the revenue from 5 million gallons of ethanol produced from the first plant, Fiberight also receives tipping fees for the municipal and commercial waste that it treats. Of that, approximately 50% is used to produce the ethanol, with the remainder sold as recoverables, such as plastics and metals.