API announces temporary closure of Alpena biorefinery

By Ann Bailey | August 20, 2015

American Processs Inc. temporarily closed its Alpena Biorefinery in Alpena, Michigan. API operated the Alpena plant together with the site’s integrated waste water treatment facility. 

Low prices for ethanol, the Michigan plant’s small size and a limited feedstock supply prompted API to temporarily suspend ethanol production at the Alpena Biorefinery. The company continues to operate its integrated wastewater facility on the Alpena site.

Georgia-based API said it is reviewing the Alpena Biorefinery and exploring options for restarting it. It also is evaluating technologies for higher-margin products that can, post-lab and post–pilot testing, be demonstrated at the Alpena plant before the launch of commercial production, the company said.

API developed the Alpena plant adjacent to its decorative panels plant to demonstrate its pre-commercial GreenPower cellulosic technology and broke ground on the plant in spring 2011. API began commissioning a year later.

API said it successfully has completed its technology development and demonstration objectives that included the generation of its first commercial ethanol renewable identification numbers (RINs) from woody U.S. biomass. Meanwhile, API also sold its first license for the commercial application of GreenPowerPlus technology. Ethanol Producer Magazine previously reported GreenPowerPlus treats biomass such as hardwood, softwood or bagasse through a hot water process extraction process, removing the wood and treating with acid to form sugars which are concentrated until they can be converted into biochemical or cellulosic ethanol by organisms. The organisms are able to process C5 and C6 sugars.

The state of Michigan named the Alpena project a Center of Energy Excellence and a Renewable Energy Renaissance Zone and awarded it $22 million in 2010. API replicated the Alpena biorefinery technology in its Thomaston, Georgia, facility and customers there can evaluate the performance of their specific feedstock, the company said.