A new ethanol plant is set to open in Vero Beach, Florida that puts a whole new spin on the saying “waste not, want not.” The plant, called the Indian River BioEnergy Center, claims to be the first facility in the world to convert waste to cellulosic ethanol using INEOS Bio’s advanced gasification and fermentation technology.

“We are delighted with the progress made by our team at Vero Beach,” said Peter Williams, CEO of INEOS Bio and Chairman of INEOS New Planet BioEnergy. “They have successfully addressed the challenges of moving a new technology to large production scale for the very first time. Consequently, we are now pleased to announce that we are producing commercial quantities of bioethanol from vegetative and wood waste, and at the same time exporting power to the local community—a world first.”

The facility has already converted several types of waste biomass material into bioethanol, including vegetative/yard waste and citrus, oak, pine, and pallet wood waste.

The process begins with collecting and heating organic waste at the plant. This heated waste serves two purposes: first, it provides food for bacteria and second, it produces a gas composed of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. As the bacteria feed on the heated waste, they ferment this mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, producing bioethanol and renewable energy.

The center is on track to begin producing eight million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and six megawatts (gross) of renewable power annually, as soon as it reaches full capacity.

Flex Fuel Logo
Gasoline-ethanol blends power a majority of U.S. vehicles today. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), more than 95% of U.S. gasoline contains up to 10% of ethanol. Vehicles that can operate on a blend of 15% of ethanol or higher are classified as flex fuel vehicles, often identified by the logo pictured above.
Credit: NAFTC.

The Indian River BioEnergy Center also has plans for converting municipal solid waste—that is, city garbage—into bioethanol beginning in 2014. There have already been several success stories based on converting municipal solid waste for fuel—even on a global scale. Sweden, for instance, burns landfill garbage to produce heat and electricity for its citizens. Their waste-to-energy program has been so successful that the country has recently run out of garbage to convert, and is importing landfill waste from Norway.

The success of waste-to-energy programs is due, in part, to their practicability.

“All that we have seen so far validates the technical and economic viability of the technology,” said Dr. Williams, speaking about the Indian River BioEnergy project.

“It helps solve waste disposal issues, contributes to the supply of affordable and renewable fuel and energy, creates attractive jobs, and provides a sustainable source of value for the community,” he added.

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