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Cobalt Technologies and American Process partnering to build first cellulosic biobutanol refinery

Overview of Cobalt’s process. Click to enlarge.

Cobalt Technologies, a company using strain development and bioprocess technology to optimize biobutanol production (earlier post), and American Process Inc. (API) are partnering to build an industrial-scale cellulosic biorefinery to produce biobutanol. Additionally, the companies agreed to jointly market a GreenPower+ Biobutanol solution to biomass power facilities and other customers worldwide.

GreenPower+ is a patent-pending API process to add an extraction module and ethanol production module (and now biobutanol) to a biomass boiler. In Green Power+, power and ethanol are co-produced, thus maximizing the value added products from biomass.

Green Power+ co-produces power and ethanol from biomass. Click to enlarge.

Under the agreement, Cobalt Technologies and American Process will integrate Cobalt’s patent-pending continuous fermentation and distillation technology into American Process’s Alpena Biorefinery, currently under construction in Alpena, Michigan. Slated to begin ethanol production in early 2012 with a switch to biobutanol in mid-2012, the API Alpena Biorefinery will produce 470,000 gallons of biobutanol annually, which will be pre-sold to chemical industry partners.

Funded in part by an $18-million US Department of Energy (DOE) grant and a $4-million grant from the State of Michigan, the API Alpena Biorefinery will demonstrate the conversion of hemicelluloses extracted from woody biomass to fermentable sugars that can be used for production of ethanol. Meanwhile, Cobalt’s technology will demonstrate that these sugars can also produce butanol.

Greenpower+. GreenPower+ utilizes a module in front of the biomass boiler that utilizes steam extract hydrolyzate as feedstock and an ethanol extraction module. Dewatered solids are then returned to the biomass boiler. The process significantly increases overall profitability by converting low BTU hemicelluloses into high-value ethanol. The process enables cost-effective cellulosic ethanol production at a small scale of 10-20MMUSG/year, with an ethanol production cost of around $1/gallon US, API says.

The process significantly increases overall profitability of the site by converting hemicelluloses into fermentable sugars, which can be converted to high value biofuels and biochemicals. The GreenPower+ technology is applicable in any industry employing biomass boilers or having organic effluent.

Cobalt’s technology converts sugars from non-food feedstock, such as forest waste and mill residues, into biobutanol. Cobalt’s continuous butanol production system is based on advancements in biocatalyst selection, bioreactor design and process engineering, resulting in a productive, capital-efficient, low-cost solution. This foundation ensures the production process is able to scale up quickly while maintaining capital efficiency. Cobalt’s technology reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% versus the production of gasoline.

Cobalt biobutanol is versatile and can be sold as is for use in paints, coatings and other chemical products; blended with gasoline, diesel and ethanol; or converted into bio-based plastics or full-performance jet fuel and diesel.



Seems to be a win-win endeavor. Being able to convert an ethanol plant to biobutanol is a good approach. Wish them the best.


with an ethanol production cost of around $1/gallon US

That is news.

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