Climate Progress has an update on advanced biofuels - How A 75-Million-Gallon Plant In Italy Heralds The Rise Of A More Efficient Kind Of Biofuel.
The world’s first plant able to produce cellulosic biofuel at commercial scale using enzymatic conversion recently opened in Crescentino, Italy. When it’s fully up and running, the plant is expected to deliver 75 million liters (just shy of 20 million gallons) of ethanol to the European market.
Admittedly, the “world’s first” title rests on narrow grounds. The plant uses a particular process developed by its owner, Beta Renewables, that first breaks raw materials down into sugars using enzymes, and then converts those sugars into ethanol through fermentation by bacteria.
Another commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant is already up and running in Florida, but it uses a different process in which gasification — exposure to high heat — transforms the raw materials into a mix of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen called syngas. The same fermentation process then converts the syngas into ethanol.
The Florida plant is anticipated to produce 8 million gallons of biofuel a year when it’s fully up and running. A plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa with a capacity of 25 million gallons is in the works, as is a 30 million gallon facility in Nevada, Iowa, and a 23 million gallon set up in Hugoton, Kansas. The current conventional wisdom says that large-scale commercial production of cellulosic biofuel remains out of reach, and the target set by the federal government’s renewable fuel mandate is too high. But that may not be the case much longer.