Energy summit examines new ethanol technology

07/20/07 Arielle Stevenson
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On the final day of the Farm to Fuel Summit in St. Petersburg much of the discussion centered on a process called cellulosic technology.

While masses of young rockers gathered down the street for the Warp Tour, many of the brightest and most innovative minds in renewable energy were inside the Vinoy discussing the latest research in ethanol production through a process called cellulosic biomass.

A panel on renewable energy technology opened with Dr. George Philippidis, who is an international expert on cellulosic technology. He says conventional ethanol production won’t supply enough fuel to sustain us. That’s where he says the cellulosic process comes into the picture.

David Stewart is the CEO of Citrus Energy. Its motto is live green, go orange. He says that right now, the 4- to 5 -million tons of citrus waste is an industry liability but could be turned into an asset if it is used to create ethanol fuel.

Stewart also discussed the byproducts that come from the citrus cellulosic process. With the current citrus waste method, the limene oil is actually doing more harm than good in Florida, but Stewart said citrus cellulosic technology could change that.

With citrus being a readily available biomass, Stewart says that from a business perspective the citrus cellulosic technology saves money over corn ethanol.

Stewart says that since most orange juice is no longer from concentrate, there is excess steam capacity in the citrus processor which saves the costs of constructing boilers systems.

The citrus cellulosic biomass techonology offers a simplified pretreatment process that requires no acid as some of the others do. This is because citrus biodegrades much easier than some of the other materials being used to create ethanol.

More research is being done on this renewable technology as well as others. The agriculture committee’s 2007 Farm Bill, which goes to the House floor for a vote next week, will allocate $2.1-billion to research renewable energies like the cellulosic process.

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