Sekab to scale up cellulosic ethanol plant

By Susanne Retka Schill
Swedish ethanol producer Sekab Group said it intends to start construction of a demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in early 2009, which would scale up the technology that it has been testing in its pilot plant since 2004.

The demo-scale plant would continue to use the softwood feedstock being used in the pilot plant. However, Anders Fredriksson, vice president of Sekab BioFuels & Chemicals, said the company plans to use Brazilian sugarcane bagasse in the future. "We see a lot of competition developing for woody material," he explained.

The new plant will be built with full-size components but have a limited capacity of 5,000 tons per year (1.7 MMgy). The technology is based on acid hydrolysis, Fredriksson said. "We have tried enzymes, but it is still too expensive."

In late May, Sekab announced it will be supplying Sweden with the world's first verified sustainable ethanol. The company has been developing a framework for sustainability with its Brazilian sugarcane ethanol suppliers for the past 18 months. Not only have they focused on environmental sustainability in this framework, but they have also addressed working conditions, labor laws and wages. Initially, harvesting is required to be at least 30 percent mechanized and is expected to increase to 100 percent by 2014. The criteria call for at least an 85 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared with fossil fuels.

"This initiative for verified, sustainable sugarcane ethanol is the first of its kind in the world, and a major step in the right direction for speeding the replacement of today's petrol and diesel," Fredriksson said. "The criteria will gradually be developed over the coming years and synchronized with coming European Union regulations when these are in place."
Sekab imports 200,000 tons of ethanol from Brazil each year (67 MMgy), supplying nearly 90 percent of the Swedish ethanol market. The company produces ethanol using black liquor waste from the pulp and paper industry in a facility that began producing ethanol in the 1940s.