Kansas 2nd cellulosic biofuel facility begins production

Spanish company Abengoa is planning to establish a large-scale cellulosic biofuel facility online in Hugoton, in the Southwest corner of Kansas state. This is the second big plant starting up this year, reports, The Equation, a blog by Union of concerned Scientists.

The plant will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels and 21 MW of electricity per year, enough to power the plant and sell some back to the local Stevens County community.

The Abengoa plant will double the production capacity on line for cellulosic ethanol, without consuming a kernel of corn. It represents an investment in America’s clean energy future by a major international company.

Major companies from all over the world have come to the US to invest in cellulosic biofuel due to abundant biomass resources and a policy environment committed to steady growth in clean fuels.

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However, US is not the only place where cellulosic biofuels are coming on line. There is also a major cellulosic biofuels facility in Italy and a new cellulosic bio-refinery in Brazil, which has a longstanding commitment to renewable fuels.

A cellulosic plant was recently opened in Iowa in August in collaboration between Poet and Royal-DSM, from the Netherlands. Another major player in cellulosic biofuels is Danish firm Novozymes, which makes enzymes to power cellulosic biofuel production with major facilities in Nebraska and North Carolina.

Major international companies like Royal-DSM, Novozymes and Beta Renewables that just started the cellulosic facility in Brazil, are investing both in Brazil and the United States. In fact, the investment is moving to Brazil, as the U.S. policy scenario has started looking less attractive.

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The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which supports increasing biofuels production, has seen adaption of fuel efficient vehicles in many countries.

On the other hand, renovation of RFS will spell the end of investment in advanced biofuels according to some experts. RFS need a flexible approach and EPA has done right adjustments by resetting the target of 2014 or 2015 to 2016 to 2022 and beyond.

Establishing policy stability in a decade along with strong regional policies like the California Low Carbon Fuels Standard and related clean fuels policies in Oregon and Washington can accelerate the trend further, drawing investment in clean fuels technology from around the world to the US.

Studies show that vehicle efficiency is improving and biofuel production has doubled since the RFS was signed in 2007.

Moving ahead, to make the deep reductions in oil use and carbon emissions, climate change need to be addressed properly, shifting to more advanced technologies like electric vehicles and cleaner biofuels made from abundant and environmentally friendly sources of biomass.

The RFS policy introduced in 2007 is encouraging, which also highlight the fact that it takes time to move technology from labs, to pilot plants, to full-scale production. The Abengoa plant opening is the latest evidence that these advanced technologies are making progress also.

Sabeena Wahid
editor@greentechlead.com