Oxy-Fuel News, November 25, 1996

Arkenol, DOE Form Partnership for Biomass-to-Ethanol Plants

The construction of a commercial-scale plant to convert high-cellulose material to ethanol has long been a goal of the ethanol industry, and one that has been difficult to obtain. But now a new partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Mission Viejo, CA-based Arkenol, Inc. is bringing that goal closer to reality.

Under a $670,000 cost-share agreement, Arkenol will combine its concentrated acid hydrolysis process with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) genetically engineered bacteria, Zymomonas Mobilis, to test the viability of the combined processes. The project is expected to lead to the development of several commercial biomass-to-ethanol plants.

"We already have a commercially and economically viable process," said Mark Carver, vice president of business development for Arkenol. "What we are hoping to demonstrate is that NREL's Zymomonas will give us an additional economic advantage."

The initial thrust of the project will be testing how effective NREL's bacteria is a dealing with Arkenol's hydrolysate, or sugar water, from the biomass, said Carver. "Our hydrolysate is different from what NREL has been using in its testing," he said.

"A healthy biomass ethanol industry can create thousands of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and help clean the air in our nation's cities," said Christine Ervin, DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. "By partnering with industry and sharing the cost, we accomplish important goals at a lower cost to the taxpayer."

Arkenol plans to have its first commercial biomass-to-ethanol plant operating by the first quarter of 1999, with construction beginning in six to eight months, according to Carver. "There are still negotiations going on as to the final location, but we should have those ironed out in the next couple of months," he said.