PureVision begins construction of cellulosic biomass pilot plant

By Bryan Sims
Colorado-based PureVision Technology Inc., which develops cellulosic biorefining technologies, has started construction of a cellulosic biomass pilot plant at its headquarters in Fort Lupton, Colo. The experimental biomass processing equipment is the next generation of the company's fractionation technology, which can rapidly convert cellulosic biomass into biofuels, including ethanol, and other bioproducts such as glues, sealants and detergents.

Since 2003, PureVision has been using a continuous, small-scale process development unit (PDU) with a throughput of 100 to 200 pounds per day of biomass. The PDU has been used to process different cellulosic feedstocks and to demonstrate the fractionation process. After perfecting the patented PureVision biomass conversion process, the company is now constructing a larger pilot plant with a throughput of about three tons of biomass per day.

According to PureVision founder and CEO Ed Lehrburger, the company's technology entails employing a countercurrent fractionation process where the solids are separated from the liquids. From there, the two materials are broken down further into three streams: zylose, lignin and cellulose compounds. The organic compounds can be used to produce a specific bioproduct or fuel. PureVision uses a wide range of biomass feedstocks including corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, wheat straw and soft woods, according to Lehrburger. "[The technology] is just taking off," he said. "We've perfected it on a small scale, and now we're building a bigger pilot plant. We're trying to raise money to get the whole pilot plant program going."

Lehrburger noted that it will likely take until the first half of 2008 to finish construction of the pilot plant. Data collected once the pilot plant is on line will provide design specifications to scale up the PureVision equipment to a 100-ton-per-day demonstration-scale cellulose biorefinery, which is slated to break ground in 2009.