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Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Biorefinery, Kansas, United States of America

Key Data

Spain-based sustainable technology company Abengoa Bioenergy (Abengoa) is constructing a commercial scale integrated biorefinery for the production of ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass in Hugoton in Kansas, in the US. The facility will be owned and operated by Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas (ABBK), a wholly owned subsidiary of Abengoa.

The $685m biorefinery will produce about 23 million gallons (100Ml) of cellulosic ethanol per annum. It will reduce about 139,000t of carbon dioxide emissions a year resulting from burning of 15.5 million gallons of gasoline fuel for automotive transportation. It will be equivalent to removing 35,000 cars from road. It will also reduce oil imports.

The plant will co-generate its own electricity and steam required for the biomass processing. Lignin and animal feed will be produced as by-products.

Work on the facility was started in July 2011. Construction was officially started after receiving the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) air quality construction permit from the state in September 2011. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Feedstock used at Abengoa's biorefinery

The biorefinery will utilise multicellulosic biomass, crop residue and plant fibres as feedstock. It will include stalks of sorghum, wheat or corn, prairie grasses and wood wastes. The cellulosic biomass requirement of the plant is about 315,000t a year. ABBK has secured the supplies from the local biomass producers for ten years. All the feedstock will be sourced within 80km distance from the plant.

Background to the bioethanol facility project

"The facility will be owned and operated by Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas (ABBK), a wholly owned subsidiary of Abengoa."

Plans to construct a commercial scale 2G biorefinery at Hugoton were initiated in 2007. The Hugoton site was selected for abundance of feedstock and support from the state. The US Department of Energy (DOE) guaranteed a loan of about $133.9m from the Federal Financing Bank in August 2011.

Abengoa's facility is one of the six second generation bioethanol facilities in the US being supported by the DOE. The US Department of Agriculture is also supporting the project under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

The project will benefit the local economy by paying $17m for every 1,000t/day of feedstock, creating 300 local construction jobs for two years and contributing $9m towards purchase of local services, goods and supplies every year. The plant will also employ 65 permanent staff at an estimated annual payroll of $5m.

Plant details and technology used at the Kansas complex

The biorefinery sits on a 385-acre site in Stevens County and includes complex buildings, plant wide utilities and product storage facilities. It is located beside 425 acres of agricultural land that will act as buffer.

The ethanol conversion process at the plant will be based on a proprietary enzymatic hydrolysis technology developed by Abengoa. The proprietary fractionation technology and catalysts were developed at the research and development laboratories in Seville and Babilafuente and at the Seville University biochemical laboratory. The custom-made enzymes were developed with license from Dyadic International based on the patented C1 Technology Platform.

It has been tested, evaluated and verified over the past ten years. The company has been operating a 0.4Ml/y pilot facility in York, the US, since 2007. A 5Ml/y demonstration scale facility has also been operational in Babilafuente in Salamanca, Spain since September 2009.

Once the commercial production is successful, the technology is scheduled to be deployed across various ethanol production facilities across the globe.

Processing at Abengoa Bioenergy's Stevens County-based biorefinery

The ethanol conversion process involves preparation of the biomass feedstock for pre-treatment.

"The $685m biorefinery will produce about 23 million gallons (100Ml) of cellulosic ethanol per annum."

Enzymes are added enhance the pre-treatment conditions for further thermochemical reactions. Enzymatic hydrolysis converts the cellulose of agricultural residues to glucose and xylose sugars. These sugars are fermented and distilled to produce renewable cellulosic ethanol fuel. The remaining solution undergoes stillage for separation of wastewater and recovery of about 29,000t/y of lignin.

The unconverted biomass and crop residual wastes will be used as fuel in the biomass boiler to produce high pressure steam, thereby generating electricity and heat through the turbine and generator units.

About 1,200t of agricultural residues will be processed at the facility each day to generate the fuel and green power. The unconverted residual solids, other agricultural biomass and biogas from anaerobic wastewater treatment will be used to generate heat and electricity.

Contractors invovled in the Hugoton-based bioethanol plant

A consortium of Abener Engineering and Construction Services and Teyma USA is the project engineer and design-build contractor. Partnered companies include Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies and Abengoa Bioenergy Trading.

About 25MW of excess power from the complex will be sold to Mid-Kansas Electric for 20 years, as per an agreement signed in January 2010. Pioneer Electric Cooperative will be the retail electric service provider for the facility.

The new Abengoa biorefinery is being constructed in Hugoton, Stevens County, US.
The cellulosic ethanol facility will eliminate 139,000t/y of emissions from burning gasoline.
Abengoa Bioenergy's technology will allow multiple feedstock types for ethanol production.