Industry anticipates launch of next-generation plants

Source: E&E • Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A surge of advanced biofuels production facilities is slated to come online soon.

According to Biofuels Digest, about 400 million gallons of new U.S. biofuels production will start up this year. And from 2013 to 2015, an additional 1.7 billion is expected to go online.

Companies have spent years trying to advance to the next generation of biofuels production, moving beyond corn-based ethanol to lower-carbon-footprint sources that do not compete with food demand. Many of the companies are planning to use a variety of materials — like cellulosic plant materials, animal waste and plant oils — to generate ethanol, diesel, jet fuel or components for gasoline.

KiOR Inc.’s Columbus, Miss., plant is one of the most anticipated facilities expected to open this year. It will make “blendstocks” used in gasoline and diesel fuel from farmed Southern yellow pine trees. The cost of production is expected to be $25 per barrel of oil — a quarter of the price of crude oil.

But with a wide number of fuels, feedstocks and company strategies in the industry, investors may need to wait to see which ones will lead the market.

“What we’re doing is, we’re creating an industry with technology,” said Kevin Weiss, CEO of Byogy Renewables, which makes jet fuel and gasoline from ethanol. “It’s pioneering for the next 20 to 30 years. It’s not pioneering for tomorrow” (Matt Daily, Reuters, May 21). — WW