Inbicon, part of Denmark's DONG Energy Group, believes that its patented straw-to-bioethanol process could help save the United States USD 700 billion per year spent on foreign oil, writes the US specialist publication Ethanol Producer Magazine.
The process developed by Inbicon does not attempt to turn every sugar molecule into ethanol, but instead produces four high-value end products: ethanol, a powdered biomass-based fuel that can be combusted to provide heat to drive the process, a bacterial inhibitor for use in the fermentation processes, and molasses syrup for use as livestock feed.
The multi-product approach taken by Inbicon is designed to result in better process economics. "Because we don’t insist that all the sugar in the biomass ends up as ethanol, we keep production costs low,” Inbicon's CEO Niels Henriksen told Ethanol Producer Magazine. Inbicon's patented process also allows the powdered biofuel product to be combusted to provide extra heat, so that the use of fossil fuels can be reduced to zero.
The concept has been successfully tested at pilot plant level, and Inbicon is now building a larger scale biomass refinery at Kalundborg on Zealand (the island on which Copenhagen lies) which it hopes to have operational in time for the all-important UN Climate Change Conference COP15* to be held in Copenhagen in December, when a successor to the Kyoto Protocol is set to be hammered out by the world's nations in a blaze of global publicity.
Looking across the Atlantic, Inbicon's next challenge is to make its presence felt on the global market against other, perhaps more well-known competitors like DuPont Danisco. “Our first step is to enable owners of grain-fed plants in the United States and Canada to add biomass-to-ethanol production to their existing operations,” says Henriksen.
*COP is not an abbreviation of Copenhagen, but an acronym for "Conference of Parties", the highest body of the United Nations Climate Change Convention which meets on an annual basis – Ed.