Alpena Biorefinery takes a sabbatical, as American Process shifts testing/demo ops to Georgia

In Georgia, American Process has completed replication of its GreenPower+ cellulosic technology at its Thomaston, GA Biorefinery, and has shifted customer feedstock performance evaluation operations to Georgia.

With the shift, the company announced that, pending improvements in ethanol or acetate market prices, or the introduction of a new production molecule, its Alpena Biorefinery operation will be restricted to operation of the site’s integrated waste water treatment facility, whcih takes wastewater from the adjacent Decorative Panels International (DPI) hardboard manufacturing plant.

In the biorefinery operation, American Process has extracted cellulose from the site’s wastewater feed, and used GreenPower+ cellulosic technology to produce acetate and ethanol.

The demonstration-scale Alpena Biorefinery could be operated successfully as a small commercial facility based on favorable ethanol and acetate (de-icer) prices, but both molecules have plummeted in price in the wake of the oil price swoon.  At one time, the now-dormant Cobalt Technologies had partnered with American Process to deploy its (higher value) n-butanol process at Alpena, but Cobalt was not able to deliver the technology.

One option — increasing the biomass intake to reach better economies of scale, is not available at Alpena, as the plant uses a finite supply of effluent from the  Decorative Panels International to extract its feedstock.

The Alpena Biorefinery broke ground in the spring of 2011 and started commissioning in May 2012.  API has alreaddy successfully completed its technology development and demonstration objectives, including the generation of the first commercial cellulosic ethanol RINS from woody biomass in the U.S.  Furthermore, American Process recently announced the sale of the first license for the commercial application of GreenPower+ technology.

American Process noted: “The Alpena Biorefinery achieved a significant milestone for API and the cellulosic industry at large. Pursuant to the Department of Energy and State of Michigan grants it received, it has demonstrated the viability of producing cellulosic ethanol from woody biomass on pre-commercial scale, and in continuous operation, as a final proof of concept prior to the implementation of a commercial facility. It has also provided the data and know-how that has allowed API to improve the design of future large commercial plants.”

What’s the future at Alpena? API is “undergoing a rigorous strategic review of the Alpena asset, and exploring various options that would allow the company to restart the facility.” API is evaluating technologies for higher margin products, which after lab and pilot scale testing, can be demonstrated at the Alpena Biorefinery prior to the launch of commercial production.

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