Setting the Record Straight

Ineos Bio makes progress on nation’s first cellulosic biorefinery project
By Bryan Sims | August 22, 2011

Despite reports that Ineos New Planet BioEnergy’s Indian River BioEnergy Center cellulosic ethanol biorefinery project in Vero Beach, Fla., may be running behind schedule, CEO and Chairman Peter Williams says the project is, in fact, on schedule and expected to meet its commission date in April 2012.

“Things are progressing well and are on track at the Vero Beach site,” Williams says. “As is the case with all major projects as complex as this, elements will change, but this does not change our expected start date.”

Specifically, reports appear to have focused on a change in the phasing of recruitment for the project and the necessary administrative steps taken in the grant funding with Indian River County that, according to Ineos Bio, had no bearing on the completion of the project.

“Ineos Bio has consistently stated in its announcements that the first bio-ethanol facility will be mechanically complete in April 2012 and will be commissioned in second quarter 2012; this has not changed,” said Ineos in a company statement.

The biorefinery, which officially broke ground in February, is slated to produce 8 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol and 6 megawatts (gross) of renewable power from local yard, vegetative and household wastes when operational. The renewable electricity is expected to power approximately 1,400 homes. Located at a former citrus processing plant site, the BioEnergy Center will provide 380 direct and indirect jobs (including 175 construction jobs) over the next year and 50 full-time jobs in Indian River County where current unemployment is around 13.6 percent, the sixth highest in the state.

In January, the Ineos Bio/New Planet Energy joint venture received a $75 million USDA loan guarantee as part of the USDA’s 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program to help cover the cost of building the plant. In addition to support from the state of Florida in the form of a $2.5 million grant, the Indian River BioEnergy Center received significant support from the federal government as part of its ongoing effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, spur the creation of the domestic biorefining industry and provide new clean technology jobs throughout the country. In late 2009, the project received a $50 million U.S. DOE grant as part of its Section 932 Integrated Biorefinery program.

The key to Ineos’ conversion technology lies in its patented anaerobic fermentation step. During this process, naturally occurring bacteria convert gases derived from the biomass into ethanol.

In August, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack paid a visit to Vero Beach to tour the facility. While there, Vilsack announced a series of joint USDA and DOE grants to spur research into improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops. 

—Bryan Sims