UF constructing cellulosic ethanol pilot plant

By Holly Jessen
Posted March 3, 2010, at 12:07 CNT

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for Stan Mayfield Biorefinery, a cellulosic ethanol pilot plant to be built in Perry, Fla. The project is a joint venture of the University of Florida (UF), Buckeye Technologies Inc. and the Florida Legislature, which provided $20 million in funding.

The plant is expected to be operational in the spring of 2011, and will be operated by UF and the school's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). "We would not be here today without the exceptional foresight and support of those who realize, even in these trying economic times, how important this work is to our future," said UF President Bernie Machen.

The plant is being built at Buckeye Technologies' Perry, Fla., facility. The company manufactures products made from wood and cotton and distributes them worldwide. "We know we would not be here without the exceptional support of many of the leaders here in Taylor County and at Buckeye," said Machen at the ceremony.

The UF will build the facility on Buckeye land, said Larry Arrington, UF interim senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. IFAS will manage the project. "IFAS provides the expertise, and Buckeye provides the raw materials, utilities, and services, including electricity, water and steam," he said.

The plant will use an engineered E. coli bacterium to break down non-food plant materials to make cellulosic ethanol. This was developed by Lonnie Ingram, a UF professor of microbiology and cell science and director of the Florida Center for Renewable Chemicals and Fuels. Variations of the technology are being used in ethanol plants in Japan and Louisiana, according to the news release.

The plant was named after a Florida legislator who passed away in 2008. He was a UF graduate who helped secure funding for energy research including this project.