Advanced Biofuels to retrofit Moses Lake plant for cellulosic

By Susanne Retka Schill | April 29, 2013

Advanced Biofuels Corp. has bought a legacy 7 MMgy ethanol plant in Moses Lake, Wash., with plans to retrofit existing systems and install new pretreatment process equipment, converting the facility into a 6 MMgy advanced ethanol facility. Rhys Dale, vice president and director of development for process providers Bio-Process Innovation Inc., says the company expects to produce 5 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol from wheat straw and an additional 1 MMgy from waste alcohol. 

The Moses Lake project will be the first commercial application of the BPI biomass technology. The company was founded in the early 1980s by a group of Purdue University scientists, with Clark Dale serving as president and CEO. Headquartered in West Lafayette, Ind., BPI has developed processes for waste sugar streams, waste ethanol and whey, as well as process technologies for the corn ethanol industry, including high gravity fermentation.

BPI began developing cellulosic processes 15 years ago, Dale explained. The company describes its pretreatment process as low temperature steep delignification, which produces a concentrated cellulose/hemicellulose stream at low temperatures, pressures and chemical loading levels. The soluble lignins are recovered while the cellulose/hemicellulose fraction is quite similar to paper pulp, Dale said. BPI has developed a multi-stage continuous reactor separator that combines hydrolysis, fermentation and separation of ethanol from biomass feedstocks. Concentrated ethanol beer or bio-solvents are stripped during the fermentation process.  The C6 sugars are converted to ethanol while the C5s are separated for conversion to organic acids or biosolvents or used to produce single cell proteins.

BPI is currently developing a 1-ton-per-day pilot facility as the final stages of financing are completed. Financing should be in place within three to four months, Dale said, and construction at Moses Lake should begin shortly after. The company projects that construction will take a year. “Most of the equipment is there—hydrolysis, fermentation, distillation— although we have to rehab it,” Dale said. “We have to put in the pretreatment system and load out.”