Cellulosic biorefinery to break ground in North Dakota

Source: By Erin Voegele, Biofuel Digest • Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

  • Underway soon near Jamestown, North Dakota, New Energy Spirit Biomass Refinery is designed to process 280,000 tons of agricultural wastes a year to produce low-carbon fuel ethanol.
    New Energy Blue

A biorefinery that will produce 16 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol and 120,000 of lignin pellets is set to break ground in Spiritwood, North Dakota, in the spring of 2016. The facility, under development by New Energy Blue, will feature Inbicon technology.

The proposed plant, known as New Energy Spirit Biomass Refinery LLC, will be located in Spiritwood Energy Park near Jamestown, North Dakota, adjacent to Dakota Spirit AgEnergy LLC, an existing 70 MMgy corn ethanol plant, and Spiritwood Station, a 99-megawatt coal-fired power plant that produces electricity and steam.

Thomas Corle, CEO of New Energy Blue, explained that his company has been working with Denmark-based Inbicon for approximately 10 years. Two of the New Energy Blue partners have worked with technology since its inception, he added. The Spiritwood biorefinery marks the first commercial deployment of Inbicon cellulosic ethanol technology in the U.S.

According to Corle, Dakota Spirit AgEnergy will have a management and operations contract for the new cellulosic plant. There will be some shared facilities and employees between the two operations, he said. The two ethanol plants will also share some product storage and rail load out systems, as well.

The new cellulosic plant will produce its own high-pressure steam and reuse that steam in the low pressure areas, Corle said. However, the facility will have a contract for backup steam with Spiritwood Station.

While Dakota Spirit AgEnergy will hold a management and operations agreement for the new cellulosic facility, Corle said that the corn ethanol facility does not hold ownership in the project.

The cellulosic project is currently 100 percent owned by New Energy Blue, Corle explained. “We will be selling off a large portion of that ownership in equity share of the project,” he added, noting that local investors have already invested approximately $1 million in the project.

While many cellulosic biofuel projects have been supported by USDA or U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantes, the New Energy Spirit Biomass Refinery is not. Rather, the project will be using a Danish loan guarantee known the EKF.

The EKF is Denmark’s export credit agency. According to the organization’s website, it helps Danish companies make it possible and attractive for customers abroad to purchase Danish products. EKF does this by helping raise financing and by insuring companies and banks against the potential financial and political risks of trading with other countries.

New Energy Blue is scheduled to break ground on its cellulosic biorefinery in spring 2019. Corle estimates the construction phase of development will take 20 to 22 months. The commissioning process is expected to take four to five months, with commercial operations scheduled to begin during the first or second quarter of 2021. An engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor is expected to be selected within the next four to five months.

The plant will take in approximately 280,000 tons per year of wheat straw as feedstock. The facility may also process corn stover. Corle said feedstock for the plant will be sourced from Pacific Ag, which already harvests wheat straw in the area.

Cellulosic ethanol sold at the plant will be sold into California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard market. Corle said New Energy Blue is also applying for a fuel pathway with the U.S. EPA that will allow the facility to generate D3 cellulosic renewable identification numbers (RINs).

In addition to cellulosic ethanol, the biorefinery will also produce fuel pellets from its lignin coproduct. Corle said the company has contracted with European customers for plant’s pellet output, noting the lignin-based pellets will be used to offset the use of coal in power plants.