API lands Brazil investment to commercialize cellulosic process

By Susanne Retka Schill | May 02, 2013

With a fresh investment from Brazil’s GranBio, American Process Inc. is poised to develop its first commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in both the U.S. and Brazil. API CEO Theodora Retsina, said the companies hope to break ground in 2014. “We’re working through all the steps that will lead to commercialization in the U.S. and Brazil.   The strategy is for dual deployment, we will have plants in the U.S. and Brazil.”

The companies announced April 16 that GranBio had completed the acquisition of a 25 percent equity investment in API in exchange for access to the Georgia-based company’s biomass pretreatment program.

“The investment in API marks GranBio’s entry into the North American Cleantech market,” said GranBio’s president, Bernardo Gradin. “It is a strategic move by the company, since the pretreatment solution developed by API enables the production of low-cost cellulosic sugars which also fulfill the stringent specifications required for manufacturing biochemicals. With this platform, we will be able to expand GranBio’s activities to other products, beyond cellulosic ethanol.” GranBio, founded in mid-2011, changed its name from GraalBio as of April 1. Controlled by the Gradin family, the company has a second generation ethanol plant under construction in the state of Alagoas, Brazil.   

API has two demonstration facilities in operation in the U.S. Its Alpena biorefinery is co-located with the Decorative Panels International hardboard manufacturing facility in Alpena, Mich. Using API’s GreenPower+ technology, the facility can handle up to 23 tons of material a day, converting a hemicellulose stream into about 800,000 gallons of ethanol annually, plus a similar amount of aqueous potassium acetate. Retsina described the technology as a bolt-on process designed for locations where biomass is already aggregated, such as a paper mill or pellet plant. Applied to a first generation sugarcane ethanol mill, Retsina explained, the GreenPower+ technology would use just the hemicellulose fraction in the bagasse to increase total ethanol output by about 15 percent while still producing power from the remaining biomass.

API’s second demonstration facility in Thomaston, Ga., can handle between 3 to 10 tons of biomass per day, utilizing the company’s AVAP (for American Value Added Pulping) process, intended to be a stand-alone, greenfield technology. “It is feedstock agnostic,” Retsina said, “from any grass to any softwood.” She added that the sugars produced become a clean, fungible intermediate feedstock. “Anything you can make from oil you can make from sugar. This is why we trademarked the phrase, ‘Sugar is the new crude.’”