TORONTO -- SunOpta Inc. has announced it has made significant progress on several cellulosic ethanol activities.

The SunOpta BioProcess Group (formerly Stake Technology), a division of SunOpta Inc., is a world leader in the preparation and pretreatment of biomass for the production of cellulosic ethanol and other renewable fuels. The SunOpta Pretreatment System is based on proprietary and patented technologies and is the only industrially proven continuous system in the world for Biomass Pretreatment.

SunOpta said the detailed engineering and equipment supply for the wheat-straw-to-ethanol plant in Babilafuente (Salamanca), Spain is proceeding on schedule. This facility, which represents the first commercial cellulosic ethanol production plant in the world, is being supplied to Abener Energia S.A. of Seville, Spain. Abengoa is the largest ethanol producer in Europe and the second largest in the world.

This facility, which is scheduled to be operational in the fall of 2006, is located next to an existing cereal-grain-to-ethanol plant operated by Abengoa. Manufacturing of major equipment is currently being completed and will be shipped to site in the coming weeks.

Within the last two weeks SunOpta shipped the Pretreatment System for the Abengoa Bioenergy Research and Development pilot plant to be built at the Abengoa corn-starch-to-ethanol plant located at York, Neb. This pilot plant is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and will deploy new advances in Biomass Conversion technologies using the pretreatment system from SunOpta.

SunOpta will present their Pretreatment Technology for the production of cellulosic ethanol at the 28th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, April 30 to May 3, 2006, in Nashville, Tenn. This will highlight the latest advancements in SunOpta's Biomass Conversion Technology to produce ethanol from renewable resources such as grasses, wood chips, garbage and energy specific crops.

In a paper published in the journal Science, "Ethanol Can Contribute to Energy and Environmental Goals", the authors from University of California at Berkeley make a case for the positive net energy benefit of cellulosic ethanol as well as point out the major impact to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by utilizing cellulosics as the starting raw material.

Murray Burke, vice president and general manager of SunOpta's BioProcess Group, said, "Energy security, GHG emissions and an eventual limit on corn and grain based ethanol supply are all contributing to the push for cellulosic ethanol. We are seeing unprecedented interest in our pretreatment technology in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia."

SunOpta Inc. has three business units: the SunOpta Food Group, which specializes in sourcing, processing and distribution of natural and organic food products integrated from seed through packaged products; the Opta Minerals Group -- a producer, distributor, and recycler of environmentally friendly industrial materials; and the SunOpta BioProcess Group, which engineers and markets proprietary pretreatment systems for the renewable fuels, pulp and food processing industries.

SOURCE: SunOpta Inc. via Business Wire.