Energy and Natural Resources

Record Yields Posted at Cellulosic Ethanol Demo Unit

09 March 2018

An integrated cellulosic ethanol demonstration unit has been operated by a Cupertino, Calif.-based renewable fuels and biochemicals company for more than 120 days of continuous operations with 94 percent uptime, meeting the requirements for a U.S. Department of Agriculture 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program guaranteed loan.

Aemetis collaborated with technology providers InEnTec and LanzaTech to optimize the integration of an advanced arc furnace and gas fermentation systems to convert waste biomass into low carbon, renewable cellulosic ethanol and fish meal. The unit was built at the InEnTec Technology Center in Richland, Wash. and demonstrated the fully integrated system, including biomass handling, gasification, gas clean up, waste treatment and distillation systems.

The loan guarantee will help support the $158 million cellulosic ethanol plant Aemetis is building in Riverbank, Calif. The company plans to produce high value cellulosic ethanol from the 1.6 million tons of waste orchard wood and other renewable feedstocks in California’s Central Valley.

With a 20-year feedstock supply agreement and a 55-year lease already signed, the 12 million gallon per year Riverbank plant is expected to begin operations in 2019.

For the demonstration unit, Aemetis used waste orchard wood and nut shells from almond and walnut trees as feedstock, gasified the biomass using a high temperature plasma gasification system to produce synthesis gas (“syngas”), cooled and cleaned the syngas, and supplied the syngas to a patented gas fermentation bioreactor to produce an ethanol broth. The broth was subsequently distilled to produce commercial grade ethanol.

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