LS9 will produce biodiesel in Florida

By Lisa Gibson
Posted February 8, 2010, at 2:02 p.m. CST

California-based renewable petroleum company LS9 has secured an existing fermentation facility in Okeechobee, Fla., that it will retrofit to produce its UltraClean Diesel and chemicals on a demonstration scale, followed by a scale up to commercial production.

"The beauty of this facility is that it's scalable," said Jon Ballesteros, spokesperson for LS9. "It already has the large, commercial-scale equipment." Using LS9's proprietary one-step fermentation process, the demonstration facility will be producing 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of renewable transportation fuel by the end of the year, according to the company. After testing and demonstrations are complete, scale up can begin.

The demonstration plant will initially run on sugar cane syrup provided by local suppliers, Ballesteros said, but will also be utilized in testing other feedstocks such as wood chips and agricultural waste. "We will test and optimize the use of sugars derived from cellulosic biomass," he said.

Ballesteros declined to release a cost estimate for the project. "But the facility has much of the equipment we need, so the retrofit will not require extensive capital outlays," he said. The six-month construction process will create 30 to 50 jobs, along with 15 to 20 once operational, according to LS9. Purchase agreements for the biodiesel are still being discussed with a number of interested parties, he added.

LS9 operates a pilot-scale plant in San Francisco with a 1,000-liter fermenter. The company says its fermentation process has higher yields and removes additional production costs associated with the multi-step processes required with other renewable diesel technologies. LS9 genetically engineers microorganisms to precisely produce fuels to have desired properties such as cetane, volatility, oxidative stability and cold-flow, while offering an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the company.

"The new facility will allow LS9 to demonstrate that our one-step manufacturing process is ready and capable of bringing low-cost, low-carbon fuels to market while creating and preserving jobs in the Okeechobee area," said company CEO Bill Haywood. It's a huge step for LS9 and represents a significant promise for the U.S. biofuels sector, he said.