Florida biofuels project makes cellulosic ethanol on commercial scale

The INEOS Bio’s Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Florida is now synthesizing cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale. According to the Department of Energy, which provided early support to the facility, this ethanol could be used to produce renewable energy or serve as a transportation fuel.

The Indian River County BioEnergy Center will have an annual output of eight million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from vegetative, yard and municipal solid waste as well as 6 MW of clean, renewable power annually – enough to run the entire facility and provide excess power to the local community.

Developed through a joint venture between INEOS Bio and New Planet Energy, the project uses a hybrid of gasification and fermentation technology – originally developed with DOE support starting in the 1990s – to converts biomass such as wood scraps, grass clippings and other waste materials into transportation fuels as well as energy for heat and power.

The project’s gasification-fermentation technology – which produces fuel, heat and power – has its roots in a University of Arkansas research project, supported by a $5 million DOE investment over fifteen years. The DOE’s early support helped this technology obtain a number of patents, with the core intellectual property purchased by INEOS Bio in 2008. In 2009, the INEOS Bio-New Planet Energy joint venture was awarded a $50 million DOE grant to design, construct, commission, and operate the Indian River BioEnergy Center.

With a $130 million total project cost, the center created more than 400 direct construction, engineering, and manufacturing jobs during its development and has 65 current full-time employees.

The Vero Beach project will serve as a test bed for producing commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol with this innovative conversion technology – helping to inform future INEOS Bio facilities as well as other advanced biofuel projects across the country.

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