G2BioChem enters race to commercialize cellulosic ethanol

By Holly Jessen | May 10, 2011

G2BioChem, a newly launched company focusing on commercializing cellulosic ethanol, plans to begin construction on a demonstration plant in July and reach start up a year later. “G2BioChem’s technology is feedstock agnostic and optimizes next-generation ethanol yields using all available sugars,” said Barry Wortzman, president of G2BioChem and vice president of business development for GreenField Ethanol. “Also, our process technology results in a low-cost per liter, which is essential to the viable commercialization of next-generation ethanol.”

GreenField Ethanol announced the launch of the company May 9, along with its other principal partners and collaborators: Novozymes, Andritz and Harvest Technologies. “As a collaborative partner, Novozymes’ goal is to enable and facilitate the realization of cellulosic ethanol production at a commercial scale, as quickly as possible; and in our opinion, this technology is leading the way to accomplish that objective,” said Cynthia Bryant, global business development for Novozymes.

Andritz is an Austria-based equipment and construction company and Harvest Technologies is an Indiana corn cob and stover supply chain company. A total of eight other partners and nine supporting organizations, including universities and Canadian federal government agencies, were also listed in the announcement.

The 1,600-gallon-per-day demo plant will be built in Chatham, Ontario, integrated with the existing pilot plant and laboratory. In the future, the demo plant will be scaled up to 670,000 gallons per day. Chatham is also the site of one of GreenField ethanol’s four grain-to-ethanol facilities located in Ontario and Quebec, that produce a total of 600 MMly (158 MMgy.)

The company expects the first demonstration phase on continuous pretreatment and lignin extraction to last six months. Phase two will explore hydrolysis and fermentation for three months, followed by six months for phase three working on distillation, water recycling and energy optimization. In all, the company expects all three phases to wrap up by June 2013.

The patented process technology is based on GreenField Ethanol research at its pilot plant and lab in Chatham. The company formed partnerships with collaborators and relationships with supporting organizations in order to take that process commercial-scale.

The G2BioChem process has been used successfully using corn cobs, corn stover, bagasse, sorghum and wood chips. The company is aiming for production of cellulosic ethanol at a cost of less than $2.25 per gallon, with a capital expenditure of the first commercial plant at $6 per gallon. After that first plant, the cost to build a plant should go down to $4 a gallon, G2BioChem said.

On the feedstock side, G2BioChem will work with Harvest Technologies to develop the needed infrastructure to harvest, store and deliver corn cobs and stover and Ceres on the same goals for energy crops, the company said. The goal is to have biomass delivered to the plant for $80 or less per dry metric ton.

The technology, which can be co-located with existing dry or wet mill ethanol plants, will be available for licensing. The pretreatment process also has applications to produce advanced biofuels other than ethanol, as well as biochemicals. “G2BioChem’s advanced biofuels technology has the potential to fundamentally change the burgeoning renewable fuels and biochemical industries—while protecting our environment and boosting Ontario’s economy,” said Glen Murray, Minister of Ontario Research and Innovation.