Chemical Market Reporter; November 25, 1996

Arkenol and DOE Link to Develop Process for Getting Ethanol from Waste

Arkenol, Inc. and Department of Energy are forming a partnership to evaluate the company's process for making ethanol from crops and agricultural wastes. Arkenol and DOE expect their efforts to lead to large-scale production of ethanol from low-cost materials high in cellulose.

Under a $670,000 cost-shared agreement, Arkenol will test the commercial viability of combining its concentrated acid hydrolysis process with National Renewable Energy Laboratory's genetically-engineered bacteria, Zymomonas Mobilis, to produce ethanol from sugar cane wastes, softwoods and napier grass.

Christine Ervin, DOE's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, notes that fuel ethanol is currently produced from grains, particularly corn, and the use of agricultural wastes and energy crops will greatly expand ethanol's resource base and market potential.

Mission Viejo, California-based Arkenol already runs a pilot biomass-to-ethanol plant in Orange, California, and plans to begin building a full-scale plant in Rio Hondo, California, near Sacramento, within the next six months.

The proposed facility should take 14 to 18 months to complete and have an annual capacity of 12 million gallons of ethanol and 10,000 tons of zeolites.

During the next three years, Arkenol also plans to open an ethanol facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a biomass-based acetone and butanol plant in Minnesota, near the twin cities.

The company is also planning additional projects in Italy, Brazil and the Netherlands to produce ethanol, acetic acid and citric acid via biomass.

Two years ago, Arkenol expected to have the Sacramento facility up and running by the fourth quarter of 1996. The project was expected to cost $150 million and include a 148.5 megawatt, natural gas-fired cogeneration plant that would use a 12-million-gallon, rice straw-to-ethanol unit as its thermal host (CMR 8/15/94, pg. 3).

Arkenol says the project was delayed because of litigation with the local utility company.