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Chrysler Group LLC and ZeaChem Inc. enter into Memorandum of Understanding to support development and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol

Chrysler Group LLC and ZeaChem Inc. have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)for the initiation of a strategic alliance to accelerate the development and market adoption of cellulosic ethanol.

The partners say the primary alliance goals are to strengthen the credibility among regulators and American consumers of cellulosic ethanol as a cost-effective green transportation alternative; to move away from the “food for fuel debate;” to provide a leadership role to bring cellulosic ethanol through the production value chain to the consumer market; and to build awareness of potential environmental advantages of high-yield, lower-carbon cellulosic ethanol.

Our process delivers a 40 percent higher yield in ethanol from non-food cellulosic feedstocks. Through strategic alliances we can fast-track the large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol.

—Jim Imbler, president and CEO of ZeaChem

ZeaChem uses a combined biochemical and thermochemical process for the production of ethanol. An acetogen ferments sugars from biomass to acetic acid. Acetogens have several advantages to yeast: they convert all xylose (C5) and glucose (C6) sugars and tolerate all breakdown products of biomass; they operate in harsh environments; and they produce no CO2 as a by-product.

The acetic acid is then converted to an ester which is then hydrogenated to make ethanol. To get the hydrogen necessary to convert the ester to ethanol, ZeaChem takes the lignin residue from the fractionation process and gasifies it to create a hydrogen-rich syngas stream. The hydrogen is separated from the syngas and used for ester hydrogenation and the remainder of the syngas is burned to create steam and power for the process.

Earlier this year, the company signed a long-term binding term sheet with GreenWood Tree Farm Fund (GTFF), managed by GreenWood Resources (GWR), to supply hybrid poplar woody biomass for its first commercial cellulosic biorefinery. (Earlier post.)

Hybrid poplar trees are a promising cellulosic feedstock because of their high yield per acre, short rotation and ability to regenerate after harvest. Additional advantages of woody biomass include the ability to aggregate forestry land and the forestry industry’s common practice of signing long-term contracts.

ZeaChem is currently constructing a 250,000 gallon-per-year demonstration-scale biorefinery in Boardman, Ore.; the demo-scale plant will begin to come online this year.

ZeaChem has also entered a development agreement with Proctor & Gamble for bio-based chemicals (earlier post). Valero is an investor (earlier post).

Chrysler has produced approximately 2 million Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) capable of running on E85 since 1998.

Comments

HarveyD

We should know by now that land owners are no fools and will farm whatever pays mores, may it be food for humans and animals or cellulose biomass for fuel. Whenever 1+B acres are used to produce fuels, that will be that much less for food production. Food prices will jump up. It has happened already with relatively small corn based fuel production.

Simple supply and demand maths.

A large gas guzzler will use more land area to feed it than an average size family. Will we down size the family or the vehicles? Many family members would benefit from a fair down size to get rid of the accumulated fat. There's always a good side to every change.

Reel$$

Gloom and doomer Harvey creates sadness in his world. Cellulosic IS and WILL continue to be an excellent transition fuel grown domestically. While the USA does produce 50% of all corn on Earth - we cannot continue to be the bread basket to the world. China, Africa, Asia, have to learn to feed themselves.

Harvey take a look at your country Canada and tell me - of the 90% land unused by humans (30M pop) - think you can grow some trees and biofuel crops to make sustainable low carbon fuel? Or just stay with business as usual chewing oil sands for petroleum?

HarveyD

Yes about 90% of Canada land surface in currently not suited to farming and over 50% will not support viable forest growth yet.

As long as we have a good friendly nearby customer (and one or two very large far away one coming soon), who are more than willing to chew up that awful tar sands by product called oil, we may not have to slash our slow growing forests for fuel to keep their and our gas guzzlers going.

As climate warms up, those northern forests may become farm lands and we may be in a favorable position to feed our growing population for a few more centuries. That may be why we are increasing our GHG at a fast pace. Smart polluters? It is not too sure if northern Alberta tar sand areas will ever be suited for farming much before 2500+, but that is the price to pay. Luckily, there are enough farm lands in the other provinces, specially if average temperatures go up another 4C or 5C.

ExDemo

Gee Whiz. The eco-doomsters are actually positing some good effects from their world-ending CAGW thesis.

Too bad it's not happening... And even if it was happening, North America nets no additional CO2, as it absorbs every gram that Man or Nature emits on the continent.

Maybe we should be encouraging more CO2. Let's sell off our National Parks, Wilderness and National Forests, perhaps. Sounds like a typical eco-nitwit proposal...

ToppaTom

Shouldn't Chrysler Group LLC and ZeaChem Inc. just spend $35 million of other peoples money ?

Oh that is prevented by them being private enterprise.

Easy, just nationalize them; let the US Department of Energy (DOE) spend $35 million of our money on this. [http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/08/nabs-20110815.html]

Reel$$

Harvey,
Canada has the third largest forest area in the world. 402.1 million hectares of forest and wooded land, covering almost half (48%) of the country’s land surface. This represents 10% of the world’s forest cover, 30% of the world’s boreal forests, and 20% of the world’s temperate forests.

FYI, your forest industry runs on 60% bio-energy. How about spreading that number to your other industries?

Forest waste is the major feedstock for US cellulosic. How about Canada making an effort to do the same??

fred schumacher

This technology looks very promising, since it's able to convert both cellulose and hemicellulose and also uses lignin as part of the process. Lignin makes up about 25% of cellulosic biomass.

Hybrid popple has received quite a lot of interest in Northern Minnesota. There are a number of plots around the region. Growing it is more similar to farming than traditional forestry. Commercially viable production can happen in as short as ten years.

In traditional farm country, perennial grasses would be better. University of Illinois trials at Urbana-Champaign showed Miscanthus giganteus producing four times as much biomass as field corn without any fertilizer or irrigation input and at the same time sequestering four tons carbon per acre per year.

Those who think that global warming will simply move the farming belt north are not taking into account soils. I'm a retired North Dakota farmer who produced native grass seed, much of which went to Canada for waterfowl dense nesting cover. Soil depth at my farm was 150 to 300 feet with 5 feet of A-Horizon (topsoil) and was mildly alkiline. At my land in Northern Minnesota in the Canadian Shield, soil depth is 30 feet, with a half-foot A-Horizon of acidic podsols. You can't easily move farming north simply because the growing season increases.

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