Friday, April 25, 2008

Gasifier Pilot Plant

GM's partner in turning lignocellulosic feedstocks into ethanol, Coskata, has announced the location of their pilot plant to test the feasibility of their process. The 40,000 gallon per year plant will be located 30 miles Southeast of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and will showcase their gasification process to convert wood, agricultural waste, and industrial waste products into ethanol. The plant plans on producing ethanol by early 2009 and company reps have hinted that the process could cost as little as $1 per gallon of ethanol. This of course excludes any additional costs that might arise in terms of debt interest payments on building or materials. The good thing is that this plant will bypass any cereal grains and so will probably not be restricted by high feedstock prices, at least in the near term.
Some interesting stats on Coskata's production process as outlined in studies by Argonne National Laboratories. First is that the process will reduce GHG emissions by 84% compared to gasoline (corn-based ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 16%). Also, the ethanol can be produced in an efficient manner so that 7.7 energy units exist per energy unit of input (corn ethanol has a ratio of 1.6). And finally, the process uses less than a gallon of water to produce a gallon of ethanol as compared to corn ethanol where the process requires 3 gallons of water for every gallon of ethanol produced.
Although the main 50 million gallon per year ethanol plant is not scheduled for production until 2011, this is a major step in bring cellulosic ethanol into the mainstream and the numbers are encouraging that the process works.

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