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New plant opening is ‘beginning of new era’ for advanced biofuels

Beta Renewables, a cellulosic biofuels business and part of the Mossi Ghisolfi Group, and Novozymes, a producer of industrial enzymes, marked the official opening in Northern Italy of the world’s largest advanced biofuels facility this October.

Situated in fields outside the city of Crescentino, it is claimed to be ‘the first plant in the world’ to be designed and built to produce 75 million litres of bioethanol a year  from agricultural residues and energy crops at commercial-scale using enzymatic conversion.

‘The advanced biofuels market presents transformational economic, environmental and social opportunities and, with this opening, we pave the way for a green revolution in the chemical sector,’ says Beta Renewables’ CEO Guido Ghisolfi.

Beta and Novozymes formed their strategic partnership in October 2012 and, at the inauguration, Ghisolfi and Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen were joined by Flavio Zanonat, Italy’s Minister for Economic Development. There were also representatives from the European Commission, as well as more than 500 global stakeholders. 

‘This opening presents a leap forward and is the beginning of a new era for advanced biofuels,’ adds Nielsen. ‘Here we will turn agricultural waste into millions of litres of low-emission green fuel, proving that cellulosic ethanol is no longer a distant dream. It is here, it is happening, and it is ready for large-scale commercialisation.’

The plant uses wheat straw, rice straw and arundo donax, a high-yielding energy crop grown on marginal land. Lignin, a polymer extracted from biomass during the ethanol production process, is used at an attached power plant, which generates enough power to meet the facility’s energy needs, with any excess green electricity sold to the local grid.