Pacific Ethanol gets cellulosic ethanol registration

Approval opens door for low-cost production of cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber.

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a first-of-its-kind registration for generating cellulosic ethanol from the Pacific Ethanol Inc. plant in Stockton, Cal., using the same equipment for producing corn-based ethanol. The plant will use the technology of partner Edeniq Inc. to generate high-value D3 cellulosic renewable identification numbers (RINs).

“This approval is a landmark for the ethanol industry and our company," said Brian Thome, president and chief executive officer of Edeniq. "This opens the door for low-cost production of cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber in existing fermentation vessels to drive yields to 3 gal./bu. While we have long heard the story, 'Cellulosic ethanol will be here in five to 10 years,' Edeniq's Pathway Technology for profitably producing cellulosic ethanol is here today."

He said a 120 million gal.-per-year corn ethanol plant can increase its revenue by up to $10 million or more by integrating this technology, which requires little investment and has a payback of less than one year.

"This is a game-changer for the cellulosic ethanol industry, which has historically focused on investing in new plants," Thome said.

Edeniq recently announced the closing of a financing round to support an accelerated roll-out of the Pathway Technology.

"The EPA-approved registration for generating cellulosic ethanol and D3 RINs is an important milestone in our strategy to be a leading producer of cellulosic ethanol," said Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol president and CEO. "This further underscores our continued commitment to improving production yields and diversifying our technology and feedstocks."

Koehler said he expects the Stockton plant to produce more than 1 million gal. of cellulosic ethanol per year. He added that with the valuable D3 RINs, the carbon credit under California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the federal Second Generation Biofuel Producer tax credit, the company expects cellulosic ethanol production to materially contribute to the profitability of the Stockton facility.

"As we confirm and optimize our cellulosic ethanol production process, we will look toward expanding this to other Pacific Ethanol plants," Koehler said.

Pacific Ethanol began producing cellulosic ethanol at its 60 million gal.-per-year Stockton plant in December 2015 using Edeniq's proprietary Pathway Technology, which integrates the company's Cellunator high shear equipment with cellulase enzymes to convert corn kernel fiber into fermentable sugars.

The process enables producers to quantify the amount of cellulosic ethanol produced within their plants and comply with the registration, recordkeeping and reporting required by EPA to generate cellulosic D3 RINs as defined by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

Pacific Ethanol says it is the leading producer and marketer of low-carbon renewable fuels in the western U.S. It owns and operates four ethanol production facilities in the western states of California, Oregon and Idaho, and with the addition of four Midwestern ethanol plants in Illinois and Nebraska in July 2015, the company more than doubled the scale of its operations, entered new markets and expanded on its mission to advance its position as an industry leader in the production and marketing of low-carbon renewable fuels.

Pacific Ethanol's eight ethanol production facilities have a combined production capacity of 515 million gal. per year and produce more than 1 million tons per year of ethanol co-products such as wet and dried distillers grains, wet and dried corn gluten feed, condensed distillers solubles, corn gluten meal, corn germ, corn oil, distillers yeast and carbon dioxide.

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