Gulf Ethanol opens R&D facility

By Kris Bevill
Web exclusive posted July 25, 2008 at 9:37 a.m. CST

Houston-based Gulf Ethanol Corp. has opened its first research and development facility to focus on perfecting its process to create a cellulosic powder from biomass that can be used in the production of ethanol.

In February Biomass Magazine reported that Gulf Ethanol had acquired the vortex implosion disintegrator technology from Meridian Biorefining Corp. and that the two companies planned to continue working together using the process, which Gulf Ethanol said could easily create a process to make cellulosic powder in 10 seconds. It was unclear whether Meridian is currently working with Gulf Ethanol.

"The opening of the new facility will enable us to determine the energy required to preprocess biomass into a fine powder that can be more efficiently treated to extract the simple sugars for fermentation into ethanol," said Bill Carmichael, Gulf Ethanol's interim chief executive officer. "Once the precise parameters of the systems operations are established and the efficiency increases are verified by third party labs, we will be able to determine the next step, which is to scale the unit for commercial applications." Carmichael has replaced Gulf Ethanol's former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer J.T. Cloud.

Texas A&M University has agreed to supply the company with sorghum for its testing. Carmichael said the company also plans to test corn in its preprocessing system, although the primary focus is to create a process that uses a feedstock not used for food.