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From Processing Juice to Producing Biofuels

June 25, 2010 - 4:00pm

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INEOS Bio -- one of the 17 global companies of the chemicals company INEOS -- is on schedule to begin construction this fall on the new Indian River BioEnergy Center near Vero Beach, Florida. The INEOS facility -- which was formerly a grapefruit processing plant for Ocean Spray -- will produce nearly eight million gallons of bioethanol per year from renewable biomass including yard, wood and vegetable waste.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Department of Energy awarded cost-share grants to 19 integrated biorefinery projects throughout the country. INEOS Bio was selected to for a matching grant of up to $50 million, which will fund the construction for the new center.

A 10-minute process

The original plant was built in the 1970s and has been shut down and abandoned for the last four years.  INEOS Bio plans to re-develop the industrial site-demolishing at least 80 percent of the existing structures while still using water wells, power, roads and security.

"The overall footprint for our plant will actually be smaller than the existing facility, and we will have less impact on wetlands and other natural infrastructure," said Dan Cummings, vice president of commercial and external affairs at INEOS Bio.

The technology for this facility takes biomass and breaks it down to a very hot gas. The gas is cooled and sent through the refining process, triggering several chemical reactions. The end result of chemical reactions is ethanol and water. The water is distilled off, leaving ethanol to be blended with regular motor fuels for transportation fuel. The entire process takes around 10 minutes per cycle. After production, the biofuels will be sold into the general Florida market, said Cummings.

The center expects that 80 percent of the feedstock used for the operation will come from vegetative waste including tree stumps, limbs, leaves, grass and plant material. The facility can also process different kinds of vegetable waste and debris, corn stover and solid waste.

New jobs

In addition to the fuel made from the process, Cummings explains that six megawatts of renewable power are produced- enough to provide the electricity for the building and export any additional power to the community.  The plant requires some fossil fuels to get started and up to the correct temperature, said Cummings. "This is what makes this technology so exciting.   When it’s up to temperature, it runs self-contained."

The center will create at least 150 construction jobs over the next two years, and 50 full time jobs once is the refinery is operating.
"We're excited to re-use an existing industrial facility and bring promise of cleantech jobs to this region," said Cummings.

INEOS Bio has also reached out to the community, holding a town hall last May with citizens to answer questions about the center and its biorefining process.

Cummings said the town hall meeting was positive, and many of the residents are interested in the full time positions that will be created at the biorefinery.

"Everybody seems excited," Cummings said. "This is a huge investment in this area, and will provide new, clean-tech type jobs."

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