Plans for a new cellulosic ethanol research and demonstration plant to be built by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are being revamped for a location closer to Gainesville.
IFAS officials announced today that they have modified their agreement for the plant, which originally was slated to be built at a Florida Crystals Corp. site in Okeelanta, Fla. The new plans call for a smaller, next-generation facility — the construction of which will more easily fall within the $20 million budget allocated by the Florida Legislature.
The plant will now focus on new parallel processes that produce cellulosic ethanol as well as organic acid co-products in the form of plastics. The plant will also experiment with a wider variety of feedstocks, including forest products, various types of sugarcane, sugar processing byproducts and many others.
Meanwhile, a location closer to UF will help draw upon the expertise of the university’s faculty and staff to expedite this next-generation technology. Florida Crystals will remain a member of the technical advisory committee, helping to evaluate the commercial viability of the processes and various feedstocks.
“Once commercialized, the combined technologies — producing both plastics and cellulosic ethanol from biomass — are likely to have bigger impact on American reliance on foreign oil and greenhouse gases,” said Joe Joyce, UF executive associate vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “They also potentially offer more economic opportunity for Florida’s agriculture and biofuel industries.”
The decision to move to the next-generation, combined technology was bolstered by an announcement in January by Verenium Corp. and Lykes Brothers Inc. The companies plan to build a 36 million gallon-per-year commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Highlands County using processes similar to those intended for the previously planned facility.