Terrabon to Open New Demonstration Facility Next Week for Biomass to Renewable Gasoline Technology

Jose Michael

Terrabon’s pathway to renewable hydrocarbon fuel produces ketones, which are then processed using conventional refinery technology. Click to enlarge.

Terrabon LLC, the developer of a carboxylic acid fermentation platform licensed from Texas A&M University for the conversion of biomass to fuel intermediates that can then be upgraded into industrial chemicals and renewable gasoline, will open its new Advanced Biofuels Research Facility in Bryan, Texas next week.

The facility, which will test the scaled-up commercial feasibility of the Texas A&M MixAlco technology (earlier post), will have a loading capacity of 400 dry tons of biomass, equal to a loading rate of five dry tons per day. The Company will use sorghum as the primary feedstock with the objective of producing organic salts and converting them to ketones, which can be converted to renewable gasoline.

The technology can be used with a range of feedstock, including municipal solid waste (MSW), sewage sludge, forest product residues and non-edible energy crops. A MSW-based facility for a city of 100,000, using 200 tons per day of MSW as feedstock, could generate 4.5 million gallons per year of renewable gasoline at a capital cost of $22.5 million and an operating cost of less than $1.50 per gallon, according to Terrabon CEO Gary W. Luce.

Terrabon has been testing the process for three years at a pilot plant in College Station and has shown that the MixAlco technology can commercially make cellulosic ethanol and renewable gasoline. The pilot plant can process up to 200 dry pounds per day of biomass using feedstock such as paper wastes and chicken manure.

MixAlco Chemical flowchart. Click to enlarge.

The MixAlco technology has been developed over the last 15 years by Dr. Mark T. Holtzapple, professor of Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Cesar B. Granda, Research Engineer, at Texas A&M University. Dr. Granda is now the CTO of Terrabon; Dr. Holtzapple is the chairman of the advisory committee.

The MixAlco process converts biomass into organic chemicals and alcohols with a multi-stage anaerobic process that includes lime pretreatment, non-sterile acidogenic digestion, product concentration, thermal conversion to ketones and their subsequent hydrogenation to create mixed alcohol end products. Two different versions of the MixAlco process are available. Version one is the original process which produces mixed alcohol fuels. Version two produces carboxylate acids and primary alcohols (ethanol).

Terrabon’s projected energetics and mass balance for renewable gasoline. Click to enlarge.

Terrabon’s pathway to renewable gasoline is via the hydrogenation of a ketone (acetone) to isopropanol, and then the subsequent hydrogenation of isopropanol to gasoline, Luce told the Platts Cellulosic Ethanol and Biofuels conference earlier in October.

Terrabon, LLC was organized in 1995 to commercialize via licensing three technologies that share the same suite of patented intellectual property developed at Texas A&M University. In addition to the MixAlco process, Terrabon offers SoluPro, a bioproducts process that converts inexpensive protein-bearing waste material into animal feed and “green” commercial adhesives; and AdVE, a water desalination process that utilizes advanced vapor-compression evaporation to substantially reduce the capital and operating costs of water purification.

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