Fiberight expands demo plant, receives key EPA approval

By Sue Retka Schill | August 07, 2012

Fiberight LLC received a key approval from the U.S. EPA and is now working on a $20 million expansion of its demonstration facility in Lawrenceville, Va., to 1 MMgy. Fiberight continues to validate and develop its technology making ethanol from municipal solid waste (MSW). “We have one more permit to get from the local authority before start-up,” Fiberight CEO Craig Stuart-Paul said. “We should be running in about two months.” Stuart-Paul confirmed the company recently recruited new investors to help with the expansion, but declined to name them.

“The days of waste ending in a landfill are gone,” Stuart-Paul said. “We are giving trash a new beginning—firing our plant and fueling cars and trucks—and providing a less expensive, domestically-made energy source for the country.”

Once Fiberight begins producing fuel at its Lawrenceville facility, it will focus on bringing a larger-scale commercial facility online in Blairstown, Iowa, in a retrofitted corn-ethanol plant. The 6 MMgy facility is targeting 2013 for startup.

Fiberight and its technology partner, Novozymes, made the announcement of the EPA approval last week. Under the renewable fuel standard, anyone proposing to use unsorted MSW as a feedstock for renewable fuels is required to get EPA approval of the separation and recycling plan. Fiberight submitted its separation plant to EPA last October, which the agency published in the Federal Register in early December for comment. The EPA’s approval document, dated in June, noted that only three comments were received, and all cautioned EPA to not adopt the Fiberight separation plan as an industry standard, as it may not apply to other situations. The EPA document reviews Fiberight’s system for sorting and separating recyclables from incoming municipal solid waste streams, including various processes for shredding, screening, washing, separation, sorting and handling.

Fiberight began collaborating with Novozymes in 2009, exploring the feasibility of using biochemical conversion of MSW to fermentable sugars for cellulosic ethanol. It became a formal partnership in 2010. “Since work began, Novozymes enzyme technology has enabled Fiberight to reduce enzyme dosing by 80 percent and increase glucose conversion by 50 percent,” Stuart-Paul said.

Earlier this year, EPM reported Fiberight was carrying out some process modifications to increase efficiency to ensure it receives a $25 million loan guarantee offered by the USDA. In the “post-Solyndra” environment, the USDA is requiring more proof of process, Stuart-Paul said.