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Flex Ethanol Facility Launched in Pennsylvania

Coskata, Inc. launched a semi-commercial-scale (or demonstration) biorefinery in Madison, PA, this week that will produce 40,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from various feedstocks. These will include woody biomass, agricultural waste, energy crops and construction waste, beginning with southern Pine. The various feedstocks will be sourced from specific regions.

The purpose of the facility will be to test the technology’s ability to be scaled up to 50-million and 100-million gallon facilities, said Matthew Hargarten, media spokesperson for Coskata. Part of the ethanol produced from the demo facility will be used at the General Motors Milford Proving Grounds for testing, as well as to other strategic partners.

General Motors has reported that it has produced more than five million flex-fuel vehicles to date, and that in the U.S. alone, there are more than 3.5 million GM flex-fuel vehicles on the road. The company has introduced 17 E85-capable models for the 2010 model year.

The Warrenville, IL-based Coskata plans to license its technology to project developers. It utilizes a three-step conversion process. First, biomass is converted to synthesis gas (gasification) which is then fermented into ethanol (bio-fermentation). The third step of the process involves the separation and recovery of ethanol (separations).

Coskata has worked with Westinghouse Plasma Corporation, whose plasma gasification technology is used on the front end of the process.

The technology will be able to reduce greenhouse gases by as much as 96 percent over conventional gasoline and also use less than half the water it takes to produce a gallon of gasoline, Coskata reports. The company adds that it will be able to produce ethanol that is as much as seven times as energy positive as the fossil fuel used in the process.

Coskata also has reported that the technology will enable ethanol to be produced at about $1.00 per gallon, which would make it very competitive with conventional gasoline.

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