INEOS Indian River BioEnergy Center, Vero Beach, Florida, United States of America


INEOS New Planet BioEnergy has started production from a first-of-its-kind advanced bio-energy facility in Vero Beach in Florida, US. The new plant, named the Indian River BioEnergy Center, was built with an investment of more than $130m. It is the first commercial scale plant to produce third generation bioethanol.

The project broke ground in February 2011. Construction was completed in June 2012 and the plant began production in October 2012. INEOS also plans to expand the facility in 2015. The plant was constructed on a site which was earlier an agricultural processing facility.

The Vero Beach plant will produce 8m gallons of bioethanol annually, which is expected to generate $19m of annual revenue.

It will also produce six megawatts of renewable power for its needs. Excess power generated at the plant will be supplied to the local Floridian market and will be enough to power 1,400 households.

INEOS New Planet BioEnergy received permits for construction of the new plant in October 2010. The permits were awarded after the environmental assessment study for the plant established that the project will not have any adverse impacts on the region. The assessment also found that no changes are required to land use, planning or zoning.

INEOS received permits from the State of Florida, The Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy (DOE).

The project generated 400 jobs during construction and approximately 50 permanent jobs. The new plant provided much needed employment in the region, where the unemployment rate is 13.6%.

INEOS is planning to build similar plants across the world by entering into licensing agreements with third parties.

Patented INEOS Bio process technology

"Excess power generated at the plant will be supplied to the local Floridian market and will be enough to power 1,400 households."

The new plant uses the patented INEOS Bio process to produce bioethanol and power. The technology has been under development for more than 20 years. INEOS has tested the technology for seven years at its research and development centre in Fayetteville, Arkansas, US.

The INEOS Bio process is a mix of thermochemical and biochemical technologies. Ethanol produced using this process helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and also from energy generation.

The process consists of four stages, which include gasification, fermentation, purification and power generation. In the first step, the biomass is fed into a gasification chamber which results in the production of syngas. This step results in negligible by-products, such as ash, which are sent to a nearby landfill to be used as daily ground cover.

The most important step of the process is the anaerobic fermentation of the gases produced during gasification. In this step, naturally occurring bacteria transform the gases into ethanol. Purification of the ethanol is then carried out by distillation. The purified ethanol is sold as fuel for transportation.

The final step includes collection of waste heat and off-gas recovery. These gases are fed into a steam turbine to produce renewable power.

Feedstock used at Florida's bio-energy facility

To produce bioethanol, the plant uses 150,000t of renewable biomass, including household, agricultural and municipal solid waste, such as wood.

By using these wastes the plant breaks the link between food crops and ethanol production, as in the case of first generation ethanol. It also reduces the amount of waste that will otherwise go into landfill.

The INEOS Bio process gives lot of flexibility in terms of the type of feedstock used for producing bioethanol. The plant can utilise a range of biomass products to generate ethanol instead of relying on a single source of feedstock.

This flexibility enables the INEOS Bio process based plants to be located where the feedstock is readily available.

Financing the Indian River BioEnergy Center

INEOS New Planet BioEnergy is a partnership between INEOS Bio and New Planet Energy.

"INEOS received permits from the State of Florida, The Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy (DOE)."

The JV received a $50m grant from the DOE in December 2009 for building the facility. The project also received a $2.5m grant from the State of Florida.

In January 2011, the project received a conditional commitment for a $75m loan from the US Department of Agriculture under the 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Programme.

In November 2010, INEOS New Planet BioEnergy awarded a $100m EPC contract to AMEC. The company was chosen after carrying out an extensive evaluation of qualified global EPC companies. Air Products was awarded a contract to supply industrial gases for the facility in September 2011.

In October 2011, Vogelbusch USA was contracted to provide ethanol distillation and dehydration equipment.

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