Aemetis announces US Forest Service grant for Carbon Zero project

By Aemetis Inc. | May 20, 2021

Aemetis Inc., a renewable natural gas and renewable fuels company focused on negative carbon intensity products, has been notified of a grant from the U.S. Forest Service toward the commercialization of a patented process that extracts cellulosic sugars from waste orchard wood, waste forest wood, and other biomass.

The sugars from waste wood could potentially be used to produce high value cellulosic ethanol at the existing 65 million gallon per year Aemetis ethanol plant, while the remaining lignin material is expected to be used in the production of negative carbon intensity, cellulosic hydrogen for use in renewable jet and diesel production at the Aemetis Carbon Zero 1 plant being built in Riverbank, California.

“The ionic liquids technology has the potential to extract sugars from waste wood at an industrial scale to create valuable biofuels from materials that otherwise may contribute to forest fires, creating air pollution and carbon emissions as well as property damage and loss of life,” said Larry Swan, wood and biomass utilization program leader, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest regional office. “We look forward to eventual deployment of this technology to use forest wood waste to supply Aemetis ethanol plants with low cost cellulosic sugars and provide lignin as a feedstock for other uses.”

“Aemetis has an exclusive license from JBEI for a patented process that extracts cellulosic sugars comprising up to 55 percent of woody biomass, and we have already produced cellulosic ethanol that tested equal in performance to traditional ethanol,” stated Goutham Vemuri, vice president of technology development at Aemetis.  “This breakthrough technology was initially developed with $3 million of grant funding from the California Energy Commission and this U.S. Forest Service grant will further advance our plan to build a commercial production plant.”

“We are thankful to the U.S. Forest Service team members who have supported our efforts to reduce the amount of waste wood in forests, improve the health of forests and reduce orchard wood field burning while producing valuable, low carbon intensity biofuels,” said Eric McAfee, chairman and CEO of Aemetis.  “Our planned deployment of the sugar extraction plant supported by this grant is expected to occur as we construct the Carbon Zero 1 renewable jet and diesel production plant in Riverbank, CA.”

The DOE Bioenergy Technology Office has identified more than one billion tons per year of renewable, low carbon intensity, low cost, waste wood from forests, orchards and other biomass sources that can be used for biofuels and biochemicals production.  The DOE has provided extensive funding for process technologies that convert this abundant, domestic feedstock source into renewable fuels, resulting in patented technologies such as the ionic liquids process developed by JBEI.

The ionic liquids sugar extraction technology is exclusively licensed to Aemetis by the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Berkeley, California which receives significant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The Carbon Zero 1 biorefinery is scheduled to be completed and begin operations in 2023 with a capacity of 45 million gallons per year of renewable jet and diesel fuel, then double production capacity to 90 million gallons per year by 2025.