BIOMASS 08: BBI launches subsidiary

By Jessica Sobolik | April 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted April 21, 2008 at 11:40 a.m. CST

Mark Yancey, vice president of project development for BBI International, announced the formation of BBI BioVentures LLC at the International Biomass Conference & Trade Show in Minneapolis on April 16.

The wholly owned subsidiary will develop and operate multiple cellulosic ethanol plants in the United States. Fagen Inc. will be BBI's preferred engineering, procurement and construction contractor. The plants will have an initial capacity of 4 MMgy to 5 MMgy. Future plants may be as large as 15 MMgy.

BBI International has been working on its first cellulosic ethanol project for more than a year. It formed BBI BioVentures to complete the development of the first project and future projects. The Schedule A package for the first 5 MMgy facility is 80 percent complete. Schedule A packages include process flow diagrams, piping and instrumentation diagrams, a heat and material balance, and an equipment list—the information that a detailed engineering firm needs to complete the design of the plant. Construction is slated to begin later this year, followed by start-up in the second half of 2009. A site has been selected but wasn't named at press time.

Yancey said BBI identified the major challenges in producing cellulosic ethanol and developed a strategy to avoid those issues. It will use feedstocks that are already collected, such as rice hulls instead of rice straw. It will use feedstocks that require mild or no pretreatment (not corn stover, wheat straw or wood). BBI doesn't plan to ferment pentose sugars (C5) initially because Yancey said there isn't a commercial microorganism that can do so at this time. "We'll add that later when that technology is proven," he said. It will avoid producing gypsum and burning lignin, and keep capital costs low by keeping the facilities smaller. Colocating with existing facilities will also keep capital costs down. Yancey said the capital costs of BBI's project will range from $5 to $6 per gallon of ethanol produced. Finally, BBI will use 100 percent equity financing for its first plant to avoid bank-lending restrictions.

Yancey also detailed BBI's partnership with Colusa Biomass Inc., which plans to produce cellulosic ethanol and sodium silicate from rice straw and hulls. The company's first plant will be located in either Arkansas or California, the nation's top two rice-producing states. The 12.5 MMgy facility will take in 250,000 tons of rice hulls per year and produce 150,000 tons of sodium silicate annually, in addition to cellulosic ethanol. The sodium silicate will bring in more revenue than the cellulosic ethanol because it sells for approximately $400 per ton, as opposed to ethanol that sells for $2.50 per gallon. Colusa's project is slated to start construction in 2009, followed by start-up in 2010.