The Advanced Ethanol Council on Wednesday released a year-end progress report detailing the efforts of many production facilities and projects at work to commercialize cellulosic biofuel.
The report highlights 16 projects or companies that work in all areas of the world, including timelines, pictures and detailed information about the processes, capacity and specialties of each.
AEC, which is affiliated with the Renewable Fuels Association, focuses mainly on advanced cellulosic ethanol made from dedicated energy crops, forest residues, algae and agricultural or municipal waste. Though the group has been working to bring cellulosic biofuel to the commercial market, it was only five years ago that the Renewable Fuels Standard was amended to include cellulosic biofuels.
AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman says the report was part of an effort to prove that the cellulosic ethanol industry is alive and well.
"We have taken a lot of heat for being slow to develop, and a lot of that heat has come from the oil industry," Coleman says. "The reality is that we have moved very quickly through a global recession to build the first commercial plants – the industry is well on its way."
According to the report, the Sandia National Lab estimates that the U.S. could produce 75 billion gallons per year of cellulosic biofuels without displacing food and feed crops. Further, compliance with the RFS is forecast to create up to 800,000 jobs by 2022.
Coleman says that plants in Florida and Mississippi are now fully online, and a handful of companies are also producing on a smaller scale.
"Step one is producing the first commercial gallons, step two is getting the industry to scale," Coleman says. "We are going to see more plants come online in 2013 and more thereafter."
The groundbreaking for one such plant, financed by DuPont, was held this month onsite near Nevada, Iowa. The plant, which is scheduled to be completed in 2014, will produce 30 million gallons of ethanol from corn stalks, plants and other material.
With more investments headed into cellulosic ethanol, the AEC report notes also that enzyme costs are down 80% in the last decade and cellulosic biofuels are now being produced for $2 or less per gallon.
However, there is a challenge. Coleman says that the fuels market is not price-driven, and will need the assistance and predictability of the RFS to push biofuels into the market.
"The oil industry doesn't want to see the biofuels industry emerge at the scale that it already has," Coleman notes. "But we're coming, and we wanted to put it down on paper."
Read the complete report by clicking here.
Click on the map to view the AEC report, which details projects in 20 U.S. states and several global projects.