Cellulosic ethanol plant for North Carolina

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Novozymes working with Chemtex and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are in a partnership for a new advanced biofuels plant in North Carolina. The plant is expected to be located in Sampson County, N.C., and produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from “energy crops.” Construction is targeted to begin in late 2012.

“Novozymes is excited to partner with Chemtex to convert energy crops into cellulosic ethanol in North Carolina. It is a great step forward for the U.S. biofuels industry and an endorsement of the technologies Chemtex and Novozymes have each developed. I am confident our collaboration will become a benchmark for the advanced biofuels industry in the U.S.,” said Peder Holk Nielsen, executive vice president, Novozymes.

“Advanced biofuels are commercializing because the Renewable Fuel Standard is working. With public and private investment, we are adding to America’s mix of domestic energy, reducing prices for consumers and freeing us from our dependence on oil,” said Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America.

Slated to open in 2014, the plant will employ approximately 65 employees and indirectly generate 250 more jobs in the community, not including construction jobs. Chemtrex defined the biofuels project as being a partnership with the USDA because of a $99 million price tag with money coming from USDA and the company.

Novozymes in its news release referred to cellulosic feedstock being grown on low productivity/marginal land that is in part being utilized as “spray fields” for the hog farming industry. In general, the reference to spray fields would indicate these are fields that have been areas where liquid manure from hog confinement pits are spread. There is need for the manure nutrients to be held in the ground rather than being runoff pollutant, and year-round growth of cellulosic feedstock would use the nutrients for rapid growth of grassy feedstock where row crops cannot be grown because of the terrain.

“Chemtex will use Beta Renewables’ Proesa technology to produce cost-competitive ethanol using energy grasses and agricultural waste as its feedstock.  Proesa is the same technology that will be used at the world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant in Crescentino, Italy, expected to start operations in the fall of 2012, and also in a series of plants to be built by GraalBio in Brazil. Novozymes is the enzyme partner for the three announced ethanol plant projects running on Proesa,” Novozyme explained in its news release.

“Realizing a commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States and proving that it can produce cost competitive sustainable ethanol is an important milestone in the commercialization process of advanced biofuels,” said Guido Ghisolfi, president of the Chemtex Group. “Our collaboration with Novozymes is an important aspect of this project and further validates what can be achieved when industry-leading players and technologies join forces. We believe that the plant can become a model for future cellulosic ethanol production in America, providing jobs and benefitting local economies and U.S. energy security.”

The support announced from the USDA follows a commitment of $3.9 million from USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to Chemtex in June 2012.  As part of the Biofuels Leadership Coalition, Novozymes and its partners have invested one billion dollars in bringing advanced biofuels technologies to market and creating associated jobs, according to the company.

Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from biomass such as wheat straw, corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, municipal waste, or energy crops, which is first broken down into a pulp. Enzymes are then added, turning the pulp into sugar which is fermented into ethanol. Novozymes is the world’s leading provider of enzymes to the biofuels industry.

Chemtex is a global engineering and technology company wholly-owned by Italy’s Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi (“M&G”). Chemtex International Inc., has its North American headquarters located in Wilmington, N.C.


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