Clayton BioFuels Project

 

BioFuelsClayton NM and Union County are natural grasslands, The Kiowa National Grasslands. Thus, Sorghum, Corn, Wheat, Milo, and other grasses do exceedingly well here. Local substrate supply for the BioFuels plant is essential for the success of the project. Provision of Water and Power, as well obtaining off take agreements for the product are essential and being actively sought. Water and Power may be supplied by a locally created Water Power Cogeneration facility . The saline aquifer will be partially desalinated and recirculated (with this patented technology designed and owned by Water Power Cogeneration, Inc www.wpcd.us

(while electricity is generated from gasification combustion of organic material creating turbine flow and resultant electricity (8-10 MW per day and about a million gallons of water for day).

 

Technology

The core process at the  bio refinery for the production of cellulosic ethanol was developed by Mossi Ghisolfi & Sons, a major producer of plastics in Italy since 1953 with global sales of $2 Billion, and is trademarked the Proesa process. With engineering from their subsidiary Chemtex, a global designer of chemical plants,  they have successfully built the world’s first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Cresentino, Italy.  Commissioned in 2012, the plant has a design capacity of 20 million gallons a year and is utilizing wheat stalks and reeds (arundo donax ) as feedstock.  The plant uses a pretreatment process that is based on steam rather than acids or chemicals to make the vegetative matter available for use of enzymes to extract the C5 and C6 sugars for fermentation into ethanol. Lux Research, an independent party, has ranked this pretreatment process the best in the industry.  The enzymes are supplied by the Danish company Novozymes, the world’s largest producer of industrial enzymes. The licensing of the Proesa process is through a joint venture named Beta Renewables that includes Novozymes as a partner. There are performance guarantees and bonding for the Proesa process and Novozymes will guarantee enzymes will be supplied to the facility at a fixed cost per gallon of ethanol. This eliminates a major risk factor having a key and costly ingredient being supplied “in-house”.

The facility requires about 8 to 11 MW of energy for operations, the bulk being steam for the pretreatment of the biomass.  There is an additional requirement of supplying up to 700,000 gallons of water per day for the fermentation process as well as for make-up water and cooling needs related to the use of steam.   This is a large volume of fresh water use to be imposing on the city-owned wells at the industrial park.  The plan is to desalinate brine water while producing power through an integrated process using a gasifier utilizing tire shreds and municipal solid waste to produce 1500 degree C heat that produces steam in a heat recovery boiler. This steam then supplies a G.E. turbine producing electric power, with lower temperature steam exiting into the desalination system that only requires 230 degree F. steam. The gasifier and heat recovery boiler will be supplied by either PRT Limited, a U.K. firm, or Energy Products of Idaho, a company with gasifiers operating in over 100 projects globally. The desalination system will be supplied by Water & Power Cogen Development L.L.C. based in Dallas, Ga. Additional energy will be extracted from the substantial volume of waste water from the fermentation plant by the use of G.E. anaerobic digestors which yield methane gas (the active ingredient in natural gas) for firing boilers to make part of the steam requirement. The treated water from the digestors can then undergo further cleaning and be recycled to meet part of the 700,000 gallon water requirement. This amount of water requirement will be substantially reduced if the incoming brine water is utilized for cooling in the condensation phase  of the steam turbine powertrain and the steam pretreatment of agricultural feedstocks., thereby obviating the need for cooling towers which require  large amounts of water.

A further component of minimizing energy costs and shielding the project from future escalating prices for gas and power from the utilities is capitalizing on the commercial grade wind resources in the Clayton area.  Although not base-load generation like the steam turbine, large multi-MW turbines  can supply up to 40% of the electric power needs at relatively low costs (ie. 6 cents/Kwh) with no fuel cost escalators as there is no fuel requirement.  The gasifiers will utilize their turn-down capacity so that when the wind is blowing .less fuel is consumed for steam power production or more steam is diverted for purposes of feedstock preparation, desalination and other purposes.   This last category includes drying of the lignin byproduct for upgrading into premium stove pellets or other value added products.  Other uses of lower temperature steam can be for supplying ancillary business such as commercial greenhouses and aquaculture (shrimp, tilapia).  The substantial carbon dioxide byproduct of the ethanol fermentation process will be used to supply emerging technology algae bioreactors(i.e.Algenol) in order to enhance the growth rate of the algae. The algae is then processed into renewable diesel using technology licensed from Algenol or other vendor. (The carbon dioxide can also be used to supply commercial scale greenhouses.) Steam heat will be used to maintain optimum growing temperatures during the colder months. The algae becomes another feedstock for producing ethanol as well.  

The concept is to maximize  control of the cost of energy over the life of the project while efficiently utilizing waste heat and byproducts to create additional profit centers. The avoidance of fossil fuels and production of renewable diesel for transporting feed stocks to the ethanol plant creates a low carbon footprint essential for qualifying the ethanol product under EPA  criteria as an advanced biofuel.


BioFuels1The Chemtex/Beta Renewables cellulosic ethanol process can utilize any plant matter including hardwoods as a feedstock from which to extract the sugars for fermentation. Softwoods such as pine do have “inhibitors” which require expensive add-on processing and so are not part of the Clayton project “basket” of feedstocks. The proposed plant will require annually about 270,000 metric tons on a dry basis of feedstock. On a daily basis this is about 800 tons. The feedstock requirement  will be supplied through a locally-based company with a large fleet of trucks and harvesters, irrigated circles of farmland, and a close working relationship with growers in Union County and throughout the region. A contractual, long-term relationship for the supply will be created which ideally would include an equity position in the project so that there is an ownership level of commitment, as well as increase the economic benefits for what is essentially the foundation of the project.

Corn is the dominant crop in Union County and the adjacent counties in Texas and Oklahoma.  Therefore the use of corn stover left over after the harvesting of the corn is the existing opportunity for feedstock on a large scale .Harvesting equipment designed for stover is now available from several major manufacturers. Another opportunity crop waste in abundance in the area is wheat stalks. (this is the primary feedstock for the first cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy)  

The cultivation of a high biomass sorghum developed by Ceres Inc. called “Skyscraper” will be a major component of the feedstock mix.  A 60 acre trial planting of the “Skyscraper” sorghum was undertaken this spring by a local grower on behalf of this project. At near harvest time the crop has grown 10 feet tall or more touching the center-pivot irrigation system and has established a very dense stand of vegetation. Yields on a ton per acre basis will be determined after the harvesting, but appear to be what is economical for the project. The blended cost projection for all the feedstocks is $60 per ton delivered to the ethanol plant. The sorghum can require much less water and fertilizer than corn which makes the crop better suited for weathering droughts and depletion of groundwater well pumping rates.

Another “energy crop” developed by Ceres Inc. is a switchgrass variety that is a perennial that can be irrigated or dryland. This crop requires even less water and fertilizer than the sorghum, however yields are not as great on a per acre basis. The rainfall in Union County and the adjacent counties is not sufficient for switchgrass for dryland farming (unirrigated), however there are counties in the eastern Texas Panhandle that do have the annual precipitation levels sufficient for dryland farming of switchrass. Trucking costs would be substantial because of the hundred mile plus distance but would likely be offset by the lower cultivation costs. This will require further research but indicates the potential for a second tier of feed stocks that can be delivered from outside the immediate area.

The long-term plan is to transition to crops that can thrive in semi- arid conditions and require minimum irrigation.  To that end a “semi-arid energy crop research center” will be established using a center-pivot, well and land at the industrial park site. Chamisa is a very energy dense plant that thrives in New Mexico and throughout  the west on very marginal soils. The University of Nevada did substantial research on the commercial cultivation and harvesting of chamisa and found that this plant with naturally occurring latex and ethanol in its composition had a potential as an energy crop. It can be commonly observed that wherever Chamisa gets additional water from road or roof or ravine runoff  it doubles or triples in size. Therefore it would be productive to explore the response of this hardy plant to center-pivot irrigation on a low-water basis. There are a number of other plants such as the buffalo gourd, rich in sugars, that could be integrated into the feedstock mix over time as a way to maintain the supply of plant material at the lowest cost under future conditions of reduced irrigation water availability. New Mexico State University presently operates the Clayton Livestock Research Center and they will be a possible coordinator of such a cellulosic crop research center.