Crop Biotech Update

First Demo Scale Cellulose-Ethanol Production Facility Starts Operation

May 30, 2008
 Verenium Corporation, a cellulose ethanol production technology company, has started operations of a cellulose ethanol production facility (annual production capacity of 1.4 million gallons) in Jennings, Louisiana. The facility is said to be the first demonstration scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States, and will test “variations on the company’s technology” in a continuous mode of operation. One of the goals of the facility is to cost-effectively produce cellulosic ethanol at $2 per gallon. The Technology Review website reports that the feedstock to be used for cellulose ethanol production will be “bagasse” (spent sugarcane stalks after juice extraction); the production process will include acid pretreatment (for lignin removal and for liberating the cellulose from the biomass), enzymatic treatment (to convert cellulose into simple sugars), and fermentation (to convert the simple sugars to ethanol). Construction of a fully commercial-scale production plant (20 million to 30 million gallons per year) is being planned next year. To date, there are still no full scale cellulose ethanol production plants in the United States, although some (with a few funded by the U.S. Department of Energy) are presently under construction..