Clariant opens cellulose ethanol pilot plant

Swiss specialty chemicals company, Clariant, has opened pilot facility in Straubing in Bavaria, Germany, to manufacture cellulose ethanol from agricultural waste.

The €28m plant will produce around 1,000tn of environmentally-friendly cellulose ethanol from around 4,500tn of wheat.

The plant is based on Clariant sunliquid technology, which turns plant waste products, such as grain straw and corn straw, into second-generation cellulose ethanol.

Hariolf Kottmann, Clariant CEO, said the new plant launch marks an important milestone in the production of a climate-friendly biofuel that can also be used as a raw material for the chemical industry.

"The plant is based on Clariant sunliquid technology, which turns plant waste products into second-generation cellulose ethanol."

"Only when society recognises the environmental benefits of climate-friendly biofuels can second-generation bioethanol be successful," Kottmann added.

The facility, which is supported by the Bavarian government and the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, will procure its raw materials largely from the Straubing region.

German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan said the plant clearly demonstrates that products traditionally based on petroleum can be manufactured to the same standard using biomass.

"Thus this new plant serves as an important contribution to a sustainable Bio-Economy," Schavan added.

Andre Koltermann, Clariant Biotech and Renewables Center head, said the company has been developing the sunliquid technology since 2006 and has been testing the method on a pilot scale since 2009.

"The results we obtain in Straubing will enable us to plan industrial production plants efficiently and economically, and ultimately to realize such plants in cooperation with partners," Koltermann added.

Clariant said studies indicate that Germany potentially has around 22mt of straw, which would be sufficient to cover around 25% of country's existing gasoline needs.