Commissioning under way at Florida cellulosic ethanol plant

By Susanne Retka Schill | August 02, 2012

Commissioning is well under way at the commercial-scale Ineos New Planet Bioenergy LLC facility, dubbed the Indian River BioEnergy Center, located near Vero Beach, Fla. When running at full capacity, the plant will produce 8 MMgy of ethanol and 6 megawatts of power using 100,000 tons annually of locally sourced vegetative, yard and citrus waste. Plans are to also run municipal solid waste after the initial startup.  

“Commissioning is a lengthy process which we began in June,” said Dan Cummings, spokesman for Ineos Bio. “The commissioning process is going well. We anticipate we’ll start producing in the third quarter, to help meet the cellulosic ethanol mandate.” The plant is expected to be running at full capacity by the end of the year.  

The project is a joint venture between Florida-based New Planet Energy Florida LLC and Ineos Bio, a division of global chemical company Ineos. The $130 million project received a $50 million U.S. DOE matching grant in December 2009 and a $75 million USDA loan guarantee in January 2011. A groundbreaking ceremony was held a month later. Atlanta-based AMEC provided the engineering, procurement and construction services. Other providers included Vogelbusch USA, which supplied the ethanol distillation and dehydration equipment, Emerson which provided controls and Pennsylvania-based Air Products which received the contract to supply onsite oxygen, compressed dry air and nitrogen. Over 90 percent of the equipment was sourced from U.S. manufactured components, Cummings said.

The gases from the Air Products unit are used in the first step of the Ineos Bio process, where biomass is gasified using a controlled amount of oxygen to produce syngas, a mixture of principally carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Heat recovered from the cooling gas generates renewable power for use in the process as well as export to the grid. The cleaned, cooled syngas goes to a patented anaerobic bacterial fermentation process producing ethanol that is then continuously extracted from solution and distilled. In the continuous process, feedstock coming into the gasifier exits as ethanol just 10 minutes later, according to Cummings.

The process design was worked out in over 40,000 hours of operation since 2003 at a fully-integrated pilot plant in Fayetteville, Ark., using a wide variety of feedstocks. Ineos purchased the pilot facility and technology in 2008 from Bioengineering Resources Inc., combining that work with its own expertise in technology commercialization and large-scale facility development.

Ineos Bio announced in November that AMEC, would be its global license support engineering firm as the company rolls out its licensing program.  AMEC will work with Ineos Bio in developing engineering design packages, as it did in the development of the Indian River BioEnergy Center.

“Ineos Bio is looking to build, own and operate facilities,” Cummings said. “We’re open to partnering in joint ventures if opportunities arise, and we are in discussions with a number of entities to license the technology.”