Plans for a new cellulosic ethanol research and demonstration plant to be built by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are being revamped for a location closer to Gainesville.
IFAS officials have announced they have modified their agreement for the plant, which originally was slated to be built at a Florida Crystals Corp. site in Okeelanta, Fla. The new plans call for a smaller, next-generation facility — the construction of which will more easily fall within the $20 million budget allocated by the Florida Legislature.
The plant will now focus on new parallel processes that produce cellulosic ethanol as well as organic acid co-products in the form of plastics. The plant will also experiment with a wider variety of feedstocks, including forest products, various types of sugarcane, sugar processing by-products and many others.
Meanwhile, a location closer to UF will help draw upon the expertise of the university’s faculty and staff to expedite this next-generation technology. Florida Crystals will remain a member of the technical advisory committee, helping to evaluate the commercial viability of the processes and various feedstocks.
“Once commercialized, the combined technologies — producing both plastics and cellulosic ethanol from biomass — are likely to have a bigger impact on American reliance on foreign oil and greenhouse gases,” said Joe Joyce, UF executive associate vice-president for agriculture and natural resources. “They also potentially offer more economic opportunity for Florida’s agriculture and biofuel industries.”
The decision to move to the next-generation, combined technology was bolstered by an announcement in January by Verenium Corp. and Lykes Brothers Inc. The companies plan to build a 36 million gallon-per-year commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Highlands County using processes similar to those intended for the previously planned facility.