September 29, 2011


COFCO's first non-grain-based ethanol plant to finish next year


China COFCO expects to complete building its first non-grain-based cellulosic ethanol plant in 2012, sources said Tuesday (Sep 27).


But no details were available on when the plant intends to start commercial operations.


COFCO, which has four other ethanol plants - in Guangxi, Anhui, Zhaodong and Jilin with a total annual capacity of 800,000 tonnes - currently uses cassava and corn as feedstock.


But China, which has a capacity to produce 1.7 million tonnes of biofuels each year, has been seeking to develop non-grain-based ethanol production capacity over food security concerns.


Meanwhile, COFCO, which has been running a 500-tonne/year pilot cellulosic ethanol plant next to its Zhaodong plant since 2010, intends to build two cellulosic ethanol plants - one with an annual capacity of 50,000 tonnes at an unspecified location and a second one with an annual capacity of 30,000 tonnes in Jilin. No time frame, however, was indicated.


COFCO, which has majority interest in the Guangxi, Anhui and Zhaodong plants, also operates these plants. The Jilin plant, however, is operated by its subsidiary Jilin Alcohol, in which COFCO owns a 20% stake.


Separately, Henan Tianguan, which is owned by the provincial government, was reported to have doubled its cellulosic ethanol capacity to 10,000 tonne/year since 2008.


Multinational Dupont was also reported to be seeking partnerships with domestic companies that have the capacity to produce non foodstock-based ethanol.


A key cost factor in the production of cellulosic ethanol is cellulosic enzyme. According to the COFCO source, the current cost of the cellulosic enzyme is US$956/tonne compared with 2006 when it reached US$3,136/tonne.


The high feedstock cost levels then created a bottleneck in the development of cellulosic ethanol.