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Four Cellulosic Ethanol Breakthroughs

September 3, 2014 - 1:11pm

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Agricultural and forestry waste like corn stover and lawn clippings can be used as a source of sustainable fuel to power vehicles of all types—even racecars and airplanes. This non-food biomass contains the raw materials and molecular compounds needed to create cellulosic ethanol, a fuel source that has the potential to slash carbon emissions by more than 80% when replacing gasoline.

Today, the nation’s first ever commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery to use corn waste as a feedstock officially opened for business in Emmetsburg, Iowa. POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY is the second of two Energy Department-funded cellulosic ethanol biorefineries to come on line within the past year.   Watch this documentary for a behind-the-scenes look at how cellulosic ethanol is produced at POET-DSM and how the facility is benefiting farmers in America’s heartland.

To bring you up to speed on this new fuel source, we’ve highlighted a few major milestones related to cellulosic ethanol:

  1. The nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production took place last year at INEOS Bio’s Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Florida.   Developed through a joint venture between INEOS Bio and New Planet Energy, the project uses a unique hybrid of gasification and fermentation technology to convert wood scraps, grass clippings and other waste materials into transportation fuels as well as energy for heat and power. The project was originally developed with Energy Department support dating back to the 1990s.
  2. In 2012, scientists at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab successfully demonstrated the technical advances needed to produce cellulosic ethanol cost competitively at $2.15 per gallon. The breakthrough was a result of work at the Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility.
  3. INEOS Bio is now supplying cellulosic ethanol to racecars participating in the TUDOR Championship, which is sponsored by International Motor Sports Association.
  4. Earlier this year, American Process, Inc., sold its first shipment of Renewable Identification Number (RIN)-qualified cellulosic ethanol. Having a RIN ensures the fuel is in compliance with renewable fuel standards and enables the Environmental Protection Agency to track production, use, and trade of the fuel.   

These breakthroughs, along with Project LIBERTY, are helping the nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil and move the clean energy economy forward. Learn more about the Energy Department’s work to develop and deploy commercially viable, high-performance biofuels like cellulosic ethanol from renewable biomass.

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