Iogen announces startup of Brazilian cellulosic ethanol plant

By Susanne Retka Schill | December 17, 2014

Ottawa-based Iogen Corp. announced its first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant is producing ethanol in Brazil. The first 200,000 liters (53,000 gallons) has been distributed by Brazilian ethanol producer, Raízen, to its network of gas stations, Ziyad Rahme, senior vice president and general manager of Iogen Energy, told Ethanol Producer Magazine.

“We started commissioning at the end of October when construction was completed,” Rahme said. “We are still in startup and shake down phase until the end of the month. Then, the way the sugarcane season works, they shut down now for the offseason as harvest ends. They’ll start up again in the second quarter. We will ramp up to full production at that time.”  The company expects to be able to reach full nameplate capacity shortly after.

“Our startup has gone very well,” he reported. “We’re very pleased. We’ve done a lot of test work and validation here in Ottawa to build up the experienced needed to be able to do a quick startup when we went commercial. And that’s what we’re seeing.” 

Iogen announced the groundbreaking in late November 2013, for the $100 million, 40 MMly cellulosic ethanol plant colocated with Raízen’s 80 MMly Costa Pinto sugarcane ethanol plant in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil. Raízen handled the engineering and procurement functions for the project. “They did a fabulous job of keeping the project on schedule, delivering the construction on time. A year ago we targeted the fourth quarter 2014 for startup and it was a big accomplishment to be able to hit that,” Rahme said.  

Iogen has more than 10 years of testing and validation on its enzymatic hydrolysis process for cellulosic ethanol, beginning with straw and testing multiple feedstocks. When the partnership with the Brazilian sugarcane produce was struck, the company shipped 1,000 tons of sugarcane bagasse to the demo plant in Ottawa. “We spent six months here working with it. It had different mechanical and handling properties and the chemistry was a little different—not better, not worse, but different than wheat straw or corn stover,” Rahme explained. “Our time at the demo plant was spent troubleshooting some of the problems we hadn’t encountered before on the mechanical handling side, and then optimizing the chemistry of our process for bagasse. Finding the right set of condition for processing the material and adapting our designs for bagasse.” 

“Biofuel production at this facility represents the next step in our partnership with Iogen,” said João Alberto Abreu, agroindustrial director from Raízen, in a statement accompanying the announcement. Raízen`s initial commitment to Iogen came in July 2012. The company intends to deploy the technology in seven more sugarcane mills.

“Continuous commercial production will commence with the upcoming 2015 harvest season,” said Pedro Mizutani, Raízen’s executive vice president. “We plan to be producing up to 1 billion liters of cellulosic biofuel from bagasse and cane straw by 2024.”

“We are very excited to have been able to make this start-up a success” said Iogen Corp. CEO Brian Foody. “We have a great team of engineers, scientists and operators who’ve been working tirelessly with Raízen’s own excellent team. It has been a great partnership and we’re very pleased to be collaborating with a major ethanol industry player and committed partner like Raízen