Abengoa opens commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant

Abengoa has officially opened its second generation cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton in the US state of Kansas.

Construction on the biorefinery finished in mid-August and it began producing cellulosic ethanol at the end of September. It has the capacity to produce up to 25 million gallons per year.

The plant utilises only second generation biomass feedstocks such as non-edible agricultural crop residues. Additionally, the plant generates 21MW of renewable electricity utilising residual biomass solids from the ethanol conversion process. This is enough to power itself and provide excess power to the local Stevens County community.

The Hugoton plant opening also marks the first commercial deployment of Abengoa's enzymatic hydrolysis technology, which turns biomass into fermentable sugars that are then converted to ethanol.

'The Hugoton plant opening is the result of 10 years of technical development, roughly 40,000 hours of pilot and demonstration plant operation, and the support of the DOE,' says Manuel Sánchez Ortega, CEO of Abengoa. 'This would have been simply impossible without the establishment of the Renewable Fuel Standard.'

Abengoa received a $132.4 million (€104 million) loan guarantee and a $97 million grant through the Department of Energy to support construction of the Hugoton facility.

At full capacity, the Hugoton facility will process 1,000 tonnes per day of biomass, most of which is harvested within a 50-mile radius each year – providing $17 million per year of extra income for local farmers whose agricultural waste would otherwise have little or no value. Of that biomass, more than 80% is expected to consist of irrigated corn stover, with the remainder comprised of wheat straw, milo stubble and switchgrass.

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