Cellulosic Ethanol and Corn Ethanol Producers and Information Sources
REAP-Canada - leader and pioneer in the R&D of Switchgrass for pelleting
Ethanol Producer Magazine: http://www.ethanolproducer.com/
Biofuels Magazine: http://biomassmagazine.com/
General Biomass (biomass to ethanol): http://www.generalbiomass.com/
Cornell grass energy site: http://www.grassbioenergy.org/
Biotech Progress (Czech Republic): http://www.biotech-pro.com/
Argonne National Laboratory (US Department of Energy Lab): http://www.anl.gov/
Mascoma: http://www.mascoma.com/
Biofuels Digest: http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/
Iogen (Ottawa Ontario): http://www.iogen.ca/
Agrivida (biotech company): http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=16408&ch=biztech&a=f
National Renewable Energy Laboratory: http://www.nrel.gov/
NREL Biorefinery Detail: http://www.nrel.gov/biomass/biorefinery.html
Oak Ridge National Laboratory: http://www.ornl.gov/

                 Small Scale Ethanol Production Facilities (perferct  for local Energy Farming)
Allard Research & Development: http://allardresearch.com/
ASABE Study for On Farm Pretreatment:  http://www.dfrc.ars.usda.gov/DFRCWebPDFs/2008-Digman-ASABE.pdf
Inbicon Biomass Refinery Process:  http://www.inbicon.com/Technologies/Biomass_Refinery_process/Pages/Biomass Refinery process.aspx

                                                Ethanol Production Process Information
Process Diagrams (Corn and Cellulosic): http://www.ethanolrfa.org/pages/how-ethanol-is-made
Mascoma's Consolidated Bioprocessing: http://www.mascoma.com/pages/sub_cellethanol04.php
Reducing pretreatment costs in the silo: http://science.energy.gov/
Wiki information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol
National Geographic Comparison: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/10/biofuels/biofuels-text

                                          Information on growing Switchgrass and other grasses
New York Biomass Energy Alliance: http://www.newyorkbiomass.org/
Grass Energy In the Northeast Blog: http://grassenergy.wordpress.com/
St. Lawrence County Grass Energy Working Group: http://slcgrassenergy.org/index.html
Switchgrass seeding recommendations in Iowa: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1773.pdf
Switchgrass properties details: http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/bioen96/mclaugh.html, http://www.floridata.com/ref/p/pani_vir.cfm
Switchgrass Specs: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-267.html
Broome grass and Timothy grass Cellulose content reference: http://jas.fass.org/cgi/reprint/18/1/365.pdf
Good article supporting Reed Canary Grass: http://www.vapo.fi/eng/biofuels/energy_crops/reed_canary_grass/?id=982
Reed Canary Grass properties: http://www.ienica.net/crops/reedcanarygrass.htm
Emissions reduction from Reed Canary Grass and Switchgrass: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070405122400.htm
Article on energy gain and greenhouse gas reduction with Switchgrass: http://gas2.org/2008/03/14/switchgrass-could-displace-30-of-us-petroleum-usage-with-94-ghg-reduction/
USDA Information: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PAVI2&photoID=pavi2_003_ahp.tif
Tribune Review (Pittsburgh) Article: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_434764.html

For more information, requests, or if you would like to share information, please see the Contact Ian page

                                                   Home Brew Parts Sources

                                                             Home Brew Yeast and Enzyme Sources

                                                                 Home Brew Information Resources
Making ethanol at home: http://running_on_alcohol.tripod.com/
Books on home brewing: http://journeytoforever.org/ethanol_link.html#howto and http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html#ME
Home brewing information: http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html and http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html
Distilling information: http://homedistiller.org/static_menu.htm
Pot vs. Reflux Still Info: http://homedistiller.org/types.htm#pot

Consider what Energy Farming would do for small communities and jobs - it goes without saying that in upstate NY, dairy farming is weak and jobs are scarce, so what would it mean to pursue farming crops for a purpose other than dairy or vegetable farming - certainly something like this would revive communities & family farms, and produce jobs in the US that can't be shipped off shore. Some claim energy crops, specifically ethanol from corn, will cut into our food supply, however, ethanol made from other biomass such as Switchgrass, Corn Stover, or Reed Canary Grass, according to the USDA in a 2005 study, would not cut into the production of food supplies (https://php.radford.edu/~wkovarik/drupal/?q=node/46 ).  Often in the summer from the North Country to Central New York I see hay left standing and fields unattended to. Since these fields are idle and none the less not feeding people, why not grow crops on them that could be used as fuel sources and heat sources, where we could press the hay from them into densified heating fuel sources and plant high cellulose grasses to make ethanol from. In cases where only the cobs are used for food or grain, (or even corn ethanol) and the stalks are left behind to rot, we can take the wasted stalks such as is done in the mid west, extract the cellulose, break it down into its C5 and C6 sugars, and then ferment and distill it into ethanol - all from the same single plant that provides food. 

A detailed example of how a farm could produce multiple products from a single crop is:

    1) Food (corn, soybean, oats, wheat)
    2) Fuel made from harvesting left over stalks
    3) Heat sources (briquettes or pellets) from the leftovers of the Cellulosic Ethanol production process
    4) Biochar as fertilizer (leftover from burning briquettes or pellets)
    5) Electrical power production via syngas made from consuming briquettes or pellets in a CHP unit




Information sources, unless specifically noted after a statement for the remainder of this page are 1)http://www.wikipedia.org/ or 2) Biofuels, Biotechnology, Chemistry, and Sustainable Development by David M. Mousdale CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group, 2008, ISBN 13: 978-1-4200-5124-7

The process to make ethanol from Switchgrass and from other biomass starts differently than that for ethanol from corn, since extracting the sugars from lignocellulosic sources such as Switchgrass is more complicated than the same process for corn. Lignocellulosic substrates are made up of cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin, each of which need to be made available to the next step in the process called Hydrolysis before any fermentation can begin. In order to make cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin available, each is broken down by a variety of Pretreatment methods, many of which are listed in the next section. Once at the Hydrolysis step, complex sugars are broken down into simpler sugars (namely hexose (C6) and pentose (C5) sugars ) that can then be fermented into alcohol. After Hydrolysis, the last two processing steps are typical to the brewing process where the results of Pretreatment and Hydrolysis are first fermented into a wort (beer), and then distilled into alcohol.

Advantages of producing Cellulosic Ethanol from biomass sources instead of from corn has several advantages, where these primary advantages are:
▪  It is said that greenhouse gas emission are reduced by 80% over gasoline, vs. 20-30% at best for corn
▪  Many cellulosic sources such as Switchgrass and Reed Canary Grass do not have to be planted every year - meaning energy does not need to be spent on tilling
   and planting
▪  Cellulosic sources have a strong, anchoring root system
▪  Cellulosic sources do not require large amounts of water or pesticides
▪  Biofuels such as those derived from Switchgrass, Reed Canary Grass, and other Cellulosic sources can be used in most modern engines with minimal adjustment
   to the engine
▪  The net energy gain from Cellulosic Ethanol is far greater than that from corn ethanol
▪  Ethanol yield per acre is greater that from corn based ethanol
▪  Less fertilizer, herbicides, & chemicals are required for grass based ethanol than for corn
▪  Emissions are lower in sulfur and mercury
▪  When using Switchgrass as a feedstock, one acre of Switchgrass has the energy equivalent of 2-6 tons of coal
▪  The article at http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/programs/programs.htm?np_code=307&docid=262 states:
         - The Development of Switchgrass could aid in economic revitalization of many areas of rural America and could provide significant soil erosion and other 
           environmental benefits
         - This research has demonstrated that Switchgrass is an economically feasible biomass crop.
▪  The article at http://gas2.org/2008/03/14/switchgrass-could-displace-30-of-us-petroleum-usage-with-94-ghg-reduction/ states:
         "switchgrass has been shown to produce 540% more energy than was used to grow, harvest, and process it into cellulosic ethanol, while reducing greenhouse-          gas (GHG) emissions by 94% when compared to gasoline."
▪  Some good sites to reference that discuss the benefits of Cellulosic Ethanol over Corn Ethanol are:

                                                                  Sample Processes

1) The following url shows a process diagram and also speaks to the benefits of Cellulosic Ethanol: http://zfacts.com/p/85.html
2) Avro Technologies process that shows:
   - no use of enzymes (it uses manual conversion of feedstock to mash for fermentation)
   - multiple instances of using process leftovers

3) The Iogen Process, as summarized on pages 157-168 of David M. Mousdale's book, uses:
     Feedstock: Wheat Straw
     Pretreatment: A dilute Acid and heat pretreatment via high pressure steam
     Hydrolysis: Separate Cellulose Hydrolysis and Fermentation
     Fermentation: Saccharomyces yeast

4) A good description of the complete process is also detailed at:  http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/energy-production/cellulosic-ethanol2.htm

5) The complete Wikipedia description of the process is found at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol

6) My vision of a production facility is outlined in the diagram below, where other aspects of Energy Farming are also incorporated into the process:

7) The following is a simple diagram I put together that shows the Cellulosic Ethanol production process:
                                             Cellulosic Ethanol Production Process

1. Pretreatment
This step separates the biomass and its components by disrupting the sheath found around the biomass material. The reason for this is to expose the plants Cellulose for Hydrolysis and to make the most surface area possible available to enzymes or chemicals in the Hydrolysis step.

Pretreatment is accomplished via one of or a combination of the following means:
     ▪  Physical milling (milling)
     ▪  Thermo physical (steam)
     ▪  Chemical (acids, ect)
     ▪  Biological (microbes)

Specific methods of Cellulolysis Pretreatment are listed as follows:

1) Dilute Acid - Steam Explosion
     ▪  feedstock is impregnated with acid (H2S04 - sulfuric acid) H2SO4 is used because of its low cost
     ▪  feedstock is then processed in a steam explosion reactor
     ▪  time in the reactor (residence time) and temperature levels of the reactor seem to determine the ethanol yield down the line
     ▪  A good sample experiment of this using corn stover is at http://www.nrel.gov/docs/gen/fy03/32119.pdf
2) Ammonia Fiber Expansion
     ▪  Liquid ammonia is used to pretreat and explode biomass
     ▪  Ammonia is recycled
     ▪  Process is run at 60-100C, 20-80% moisture, and biomass ration is .5 to 1.3-1.0
        - For more details, see http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/34861.pdf     
     ▪  Ammonia Fiber Expansion (AFEX) is a promising pretreatment with no inhibitory effect in resulting hydrolysate (meaning it leaves no impurities that
        hinder Fermentation)

3) Lime Pretreatment
     ▪  For more details, see http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/34861.pdf
     ▪  Takes 1 to 2 months - looks to be done in a pile or bunk silo

4) Flow through Pretreatment
     ▪  For more details, see http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/34861.pdf

5) Controlled PH Pretreatment
     ▪  For more details, see http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/34861.pdf

6) Ozone Pretreatment

7) Alkaline Wet Oxidation

David M Mousdale in his book states that biological pretreatment methods (instead of chemical methods) have the following advantages:
     ▪  Less energy is required
     ▪  Hardware demands are less
     ▪  No environmental damaging waste products result
     ▪  Dangerous chemical situations are avoided

2. Hydrolysis
Scientists call the next step cellulose hydrolysis. Here acid from pretreatment (if used) is washed off, and the mixture goes to tanks with enzymes (if going the Enzymatic hydrolysis route) called cellulases, where the role of cellulases is to turn cellulose into glucose.

Hydrolysis converts the complex carbohydrates of the biomass to fermentable sugars - specifically, it breaks down the plants Hemicellulose to its C5 sugars (xylose, mannose, arabinose and galactose) and Cellulose to its C6 sugars. This conversion is accomplished via several of methods, where the choice of method is dependant on several variables that include, type of feedstock, available sugars, operating conditions, economics, and conversion typically is biological or chemical in nature.

Some specific methods of hydrolysis are listed as follows:

Chemical (Acid) Hydrolysis
     1) Dilute Acid
               ▪  process uses more heat and pressure
               ▪  sugar degradation is a problem and can lower sugar yield and toxins can be left over that hamper fermentation 
               ▪  uses 1% sulfuric acid solution in a continuous flow reactor at 215�C
               ▪  Sugar conversion efficiency is 50%
               ▪  Two step process, since hemicellulose (5 carbon sugar) degrades faster than 6 carbon sugars (Cellulose)
                       a) mild conditions to recover 5 carbon sugars
                       b) harsher process to recover 6 carbon sugars
                       - both resulting hydrolyzed solutions are then fermented to alcohol. Lime is used to neutralize acids prior to fermentation, and leftover lignin is used 
                         to as boiler fuel or to make steam to produce electricity

     2) Concentrated Acid
               ▪  process uses lower heat and pressure
               ▪  uses concentrated sulfuric acid and then dilution with water to dissolve and hydrolyze material into sugar
               ▪  process converts cellulose to glucose, and hemicellulose to 5 carbon sugars
               ▪  acid is recycled in the process
               ▪  Two step process:
                       a) Hemicellulose hydrolyzation uses a 70% sulfuric acid solution and is hydrolyzed at 100F for 2-6 hours in a hemicellulose hydrolysis reactor.
                           Material is then soaked with water and drained many times to recover the sugars
                       b) Cellulose hydrolyzation - from step a, the solids are taken and soaked in a 30-40% sulfuric acid solution for 1-4 hours. Material is then drained  
                           and dried, and the acid rate is increased to 70% and placed in another container for 1-4 hours at low temperatures. The sugar and acid are then
                           recovered. This acid is then used in step A.
               ▪  This process has about 90% sugar conversion efficiency.

Enzymatic Hydrolysis
In this process, enzymes are used to hydrolyze the cellulose (C6 Sugar) and hemicellulose (C5 sugars).  The list of enzymes that have been tried and can be used is extensive. Examples of this list are contained in a list of patents & applications for cellulase and hemicellulase enzymes & technologies that are listed on pages 77-79 in David M. Mousdale's book. In this list, over 30 patents and patent applications are listed for Cellulase Enzymology, a dozen for Hemicellulases, and several patents and patent applications are listed for Hemicellulase Enzymology. Many of these are found on forest floors and some are classified are used for degrading lignin (David M. Mousdale's book, pages 78 & 81) .

Some examples of Cellulase and Hemicellulase are (these are needed to convert cellulose and hemicellulose to sugars (glucose molecules):

     Cellulase Sources and Examples:
               ▪  Trichoderma reesei - produces cellulase enzymes 
               ▪  Bacteria
               ▪  Insects
               ▪  Plants

     Hemicellulase Sources and Examples:
               ▪  Bacteria
               ▪  Yeasts and Fungi
               ▪  Marine Algae
               ▪  Wood-digesting insects
               ▪  Higher Plants (in germinating seeds)

     Companies who currently produce Enzymes for this process are:
               ▪  Iogen - http://www.iogen.ca/ 
               ▪  Genecor - http://www.genencor.com/wps/wcm/connect/genencor/genencor
               ▪  Novozymes - http://www.novozymes.com/
               ▪  Dyadic International Inc - http://www.dyadic.com/wt/home 
               ▪  Verenium - http://www.verenium.com/

Online resources that list details for scientists and researchers to reference when working to find the right combinations of microbes and enzymes to use with the various feedstocks are:

3. Fermentation
Here, sugars are converted to alcohol and water by the same means that consumable alcohol is produced. This process starts with a combination of the Hydrolized substrate and an appropriate microbe that will digest the sugars and secrete alcohol. For this, many yeasts and microbes have been tested & used (where one of the best for producing ethanol is Saccharomyec Cerevisiae), while other genetic research has led to more cost effective & efficient strains to be developed.

Some common yeasts used for fermentation are defined as follows:
          Zymomonas mobilis (Z. mobilis) - bacterium that converts sugars to pyruvate, which is then fermented to ethanol and carbon dioxide. NREL has
                                                               developed a version that leads to more efficient fermentation of both C5 and C6 sugars. Arkenol will be using the NREL 

          Saccharomyces cerevisiae  - bakers yeast used in brewery industry to produce ethanol from C6 sugars

          Escherichia coli  - (E. coli) uses mixed-acid fermentation in anaerobic conditions, producing lactate, succinate, ethanol, acetate and carbon dioxide

Combined Steps
Consolidating process steps in any situation generally improves efficiency, produces economical gain, and simplifies an operation. In Cellulosic Ethanol production, recent developments have come about where ethanol and required enzymes for the process are produced from the same microorganism, or to state it another way, options to allow for the consolidation of steps that break down biomass and also produce ethanol are beginning to present themselves (Ethanol Producer Magazine, April 2012). Any of the following terms are used to reference this consolidation, where each has the same general meaning:

               ▪  Direct Microbial Conversion
               ▪  Consolidated Bioprocessing
               ▪  Simultaneous scarification and fermentation (SSF)

Some examples and instances of how this is being achieved are:
          1) Some bacteria have been found to convert cellulose directly to ethanol. Examples of these bacteria are:Clostridium thermocellum (C. thermocellum) - this
              bacterium will convert cellulose directly to ethanol, but has some other byproducts that can reduce efficiency during fermentation

          2) Recently (article posted 02/23/2012) Novozymes "unveiled a new high-efficient enzyme - called Cellic CTec3 - it says CTec3 will break down corn       
              husks, Switchgrass and other feedstocks into sugars to make cellulosic ethanol but at a lower cost". This article found at 
              http://www.governorsbiofuelscoalition.org/?p=1668 also states that CTec3 is "one-and-a-half times better and you will only need one fifth the amount   
              compared to competing enzymes" and then goes on further to state that "50 kilograms of Cellic CTec3 will produce one ton of ethanol made from 
              biomass compared to the 250 kilograms of competing enzymes"

          3) Recently, researchers from the US DOE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory identified Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis in a hot spring at Yellowstone
              National Park. Given its characteristics of functioning well in a hot environment, researchers believe that it can be used in consolidated bioprocessing 
               (Ethanol Producer Magazine, April 2012).

          4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol - In 2010, a genetically engineered yeast strain was developed that produces its own cellulose-digesting
              enzymes.  Assuming this technology can be scaled to industrial levels, it would eliminate one or more steps of cellulolysis, reducing both the time
              required and costs of production

          5) Anaerobic bacteria (David M. Mousdale's book, page 67)

          6) With SSF, cellulose and hemicelluloses are converted to soluble sugars simultaneously (David M. Mousdale's book , page 189). Tables on page 193 
              also list enzymes & microbe used in SSF, including one for Reed Canary Grass, two for Switchgrass, and several for corn stalks & cobs (corn stover)

4. Distillation
The water and alcohol are separated at this step. This process of separating alcohol from water is the same as is used in making corn ethanol. In the traditional process, the 'beer' is be heated to the point where the alcohol (which boils at a lower temperature than water) evaporates up leaving water behind. The alcohol vapor is contained and cooled, which turns it back to a liquid, with this liquid being mainly alcohol (some water will/may remain, so to purify the alcohol it may be run thru the distillation system repeatedly until the desired % of alcohol content is achieved.

Since a production facility would need to choose the right distillation method for the situation in order to keep costs down, the following are some other distillation options & methods available to use (David M. Mousdale's book , pages 194-196)

               ▪  Continuous Ethanol recovery from fermentors - this removes ethanol during Fermentation
               ▪  Molecular Sieving - these are synthetic zeolite resins and crystalline lattices that allow the penetration of water molecules, but exclude ethanol. Per 
                  David M. Mousdale's, page 194, this process has been used on an industrial scale and new plants are being built using molecular sieve dehydrators 
               ▪  Vacuum dehydration
               ▪  Liquid extraction
               ▪  Super critical fluid extraction

As an example of what a commercial Cellulosic Plants output/year might look like, David M Mousdale calls a large production plant one that produces greater than 40 million gallons of ethanol/year.

5. Byproduct and Residue Processing
Once the alcohol has been separated, this final step involves processing and making use of the leftovers from the process. Some examples of this use of leftovers are listed below.

Iogen in Ottawa Ontario is a leader in developing Cellolosic Ethanol technologies, and currently is following a process where lignin, at the end of their process, is burned in CHP (Combined Heat and Power) (David M. Mousdale's book , pages 157-168). Process followed by other companies are using production process leftovers by producing thermal energy and electricity from these leftovers that is then used in the cellulosic ethanol production process. A diagram showing this can be found at http://zfacts.com/p/85.html

Other process leftovers that have value are:
               ▪  CO2 from the fermentation process
               ▪  DDS (Dry Distillers Grain)
               ▪  Water that is recycled (David M. Mousdale's book, page 183)

                                                                     Cellulosic Ethanol Challenges

Using the right microbes and yeasts:
Some strains of microbes and yeasts can produce ethanol from one sugar, but inhibitors (which can result from some pretreatment methods) prevent it from producing ethanol from other sugars (ie: in some fermentations, Hexose and Pentose fermentation can interact to prevent alcohol production). Some key factors to consider are having the right combination/matrix of yeasts, temperatures, and aerobic vs. anaerobic conditions (David M. Mousdale's book , pages 116, 118) (as Limited Oxygen supply hinders the fermentation capacity of some yeasts, but enhances it with other yeasts), and finding microbes that can convert both Hexose and Pentose sugars (David M. Mousdale's book , page 95. Also, using microbes that are safe (GRAS) - for example, a microbe used for fermentation needs to be safe to be spread on fields, safe in DDS, and safe for human exposure.

Another factor to consider is having conditions so that the environment enables microbe/yeast growth in high concentrations in the presence of both glucose and alcohol/ethanol (David M. Mousdale's book, page 136), since the fermentation process depends on cell reproduction of yeasts and microbes, and yeasts also get reused. With that, inhibitors to this process need to be identified and known so that this 'reproduction' process is not prohibited (David M. Mousdale's book , page 185).

Depending on the types of sugars available, choosing the right bacterial species for ethanol production is yet one other factor to evaluate when planning the production of Cellulosic Ethanol. In David M. Mousdale's book, there are several charts that list microbes and yeast to be used for various carbon substrates (sugars from different feedstocks) and process types. Pages 97, 98, 103, and 116 in the book list these charts.

And as with any production process, cost vs. reward must be evaluated when selecting which process methods, microbes/enzymes/chemicals, and lignocellulosic substrates & feedstocks to use.

Transportation Distance of Feedstocks:
Economic success with Cellulosic Ethanol production will likely call for localized production plants, mainly since transportation costs at a certain point and above would make producing ethanol from grass cost prohibitive. In speaking with Iogen ( http://iogen.ca/ ) a leader in Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies in Ottawa Ontario, they stated that a feasible distance for them from the field to the plant is up to 60 miles. Given this, if local plants were established to produce Cellulosic Ethanol, local people could go to work, dead farms could be revived, and supporting businesses (farm dealers, trucking companies, etc) could flourish.

Also, it is stated that the logistics of collection, transportation, and storage of feedstock before pretreatment will impact the viability of biofuels facilities (David M. Mousdale's book , page 160)

Potential Future Options:
New microbes and yeast are currently being genetically developed to meet the wide variety of conditions outlined throughout the previous section, and also to reduce production costs by consolidating process steps so that the production of Ethanol from lignocellulosic sources can become more economically competitive with gasoline production.

To reflect this progress, page 126 in David M. Mousdale's book lists over 30 Patents that have been awarded for yeasts and bacterial stains developed for utilizing lignocellulosic substrates for ethanol production, and pages 208 and 209 list patents awarded and patent applications pending for Cellulosic Ethanol technologies. Along this line, page 134 shows a list of preferable microbes that NREL recommends should be used for commercial Cellulosic Ethanol plants

To ensure research & development continues on a track to make Cellulosic Ethanol production a cost effective endeavor, continued support and backing will be needed from all levels of Government and from the private sector where the focus of this support and backing should be geared towards developing the microbes and enhancing the processes required to allow Cellulosic Ethanol production facilities to become commonplace in our local communities. This, in a combination with rising gasoline prices, should undoubtedly bring us to a point where producing Cellulosic Ethanol is an everyday practice. Given that the federal quota for cellulosic ethanol increases to 8.65 million gallons for 2012 (http://www.governorsbiofuelscoalition.org/?p=1668), it seems that this is a direction that some in Washington feel we must go, and recently.

Northern NY's Potential
Since it is proven that we can grow Switchgrass and Reed Canary Grass (two prime candidates for lignocellulosic feedstocks) in Northern NY, we need to next pursue the viability of producing Cellulosic Ethanol in the region via the establishment of localized production facilities.

Currently, Mascoma in Rome NY is producing Cellulosic Ethanol from non-food agricultural & forestry materials sources such as switchgrass, wood, and agricultural waste, and Sweetwater Energy in Rochester is working to produce Cellulosic Ethanol from a wide variety of plant materials, however neither of those facilities are located in the Northern NY, so it seems clear that we need commence with efforts to establish a facility in the heart of former dairy country in Jefferson and St Lawrence counties that takes advantage of the lands and resources available

To do this, we first need to confirm:
     ▪  how many acres/year of Reed Canary Grass, Switchgrass, or other available biomass would be required to make the facility viable
     ▪  which pretreatment, saccrificatation, and leftover reuse processes would make the most financial sense given available feedstocks, electricity/propane/natural 
        gas costs, and qualified labor availability
     ▪  what level of markets exist locally for use of the facilities outputs / is there a market for the leftovers (CO2, pellets)
     ▪  would the workforce and public opinion support it
     ▪  would local governments be willing to consider any PILOT programs

My intent is to work over the next two years (as of 6/1/2012) to review the variable above and identify the whether or not a Cellulosic Ethanol plant in Northern NY could be a success.

                                                  Cellulosic Ethanol Process Definitions

Pretreatment: separation of 4 components of biomass - hemicellulose, cellulose, lignin, and extractives so that they can then be broken down into their sugar

Steam explosion: Blasting feedstock with steam to make the expose the material for enzymatic hydrolysis. An example of doing this on a laboratory scale can be 
                             viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpMAiyWoEFo

Hydrolyze: to subject to hydrolysis, which is the breaking down of a chemical compound into two or more simpler compounds by reacting with water. The proteins, 
                  fats, and complex carbohydrates in food are broken down in the body by hydrolysis that is catalyzed by enzymes in the digestive tract (1)

Hydrolysis: is a chemical reaction in which molecules of water (H2O) are split into hydrogen cations (H+, identical to protons) and hydroxide anions (OH-) in the
                  process of a chemical mechanism.[1][2] It is the type of reaction that is used to break down certain polymers, especially those made by condensation
                  polymerization. Such polymer degradation is usually catalyzed by either acid, e.g., concentrated sulfuric acid (H2SO4), or alkali, e.g., sodium hydroxide
                  (NaOH) (3)

Ethanol fermentation: biological process in which sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose are converted into cellular energy and thereby produce ethanol and 
                                   carbon dioxide as metabolic waste products. Ethanol fermentation occurs in the production of alcoholic beverages and ethanol fuel, and in the
                                   rising of bread dough (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fermentation)

Distillation: in the context of ethanol production, distillation is the separation of alcohol form water.

- the process of breaking a complex carbohydrate (as starch or cellulose) into simple sugars (1).
- The hydrolysis of polysaccharides to soluble sugars is called "saccharification". Malt made from barley is used as a source of amylase to break down starch into     
  the disaccharide maltose, which can be used by yeast to produce beer. Other amylase enzymes may convert starch to glucose or to oligosaccharides. Cellulose is
  converted to glucose or the disaccharide cellobiose by cellulases. Animals such as cows (ruminants) are able to digest cellulose because of symbiotic bacteria that
  produce cellulases (3)

Simultaneous scarification and fermentation (SSF): this involves the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicelluloses to sugars, and the conversion of  
                                                                                  fermentable sugars to ethanol in the same vessel (2)

Hemicellulose (5 carbon sugar): any of a group of gummy polysaccharides, intermediate in complexity between sugar and cellulose, that hydrolyze to 
                                                   monosaccharides more readily than cellulose (1)

Cellulose (6 carbon sugar): a polysaccharide(C6H10O5) of glucose units that constitutes the chief part of the cell walls of plants, occurs naturally in such fibrous 
                                           products as cotton andkapok, and is the raw material of many manufactured goods (as paper, rayon, and cellophane) (1)

Cellulolysis: the hydrolysis of cellulose 

Solubility:  the ability of a substance to dissolve; the quality of being soluble, or a measure of this ability for a particular substance in a particular solvent, equal to the quantity of substance dissolving in a fixed quantity of solvent to form a saturated solution under specified temperature and pressure. It is expressed in grams per cubic decametre, grams per hundred grams of solvent, moles per mole, etc. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/solubility)

Lignin: A complex polymer, the chief noncarbohydrate constituent of wood, that binds to cellulose fibers and hardens and strengthens the cell walls of plants (1)

xylose (C5H10O5): 5 carbon sugar (C5 sugar) derived from hemicellulose (1)

arabinose: 5 carbon sugar (C5 sugar) derived from hemicellulose (1)

hexoses: 6 carbon sugars (C6 sugars) (1)

Glucose (C6H12O6): 6 carbon sugar (C6 sugar) derived from cellulose (1)

Mannose (C6H12O6): 6 carbon sugar (C6 sugar) (1)

Galactose (C6H12O6): 6 carbon sugar (C6 sugar) that is derived from hemicelluloses (1)

(1) http://dictionary.reference.com/
(2) http://books.google.com/booksid=VoHEav3bRrQC&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=steam+explosion+reactor+for+biomass&source=bl&ots=gn5eC2whGF&sig=nXdmy0uULbvaNmLhctZz-Ce4F5k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iVmLT7-AOcnf0QGyzsXuCQ&ved=0CFMQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q&f=false
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrolysis

                                                                   Cellulosic Ethanol At Home

I'm now successfully converting Switchgrass and Corn Stalks (cellulose) that we grow on the farm in Calaboga to sugar, and then am completing fermentation and final distillation to alcohol/ethanol. The goal of this work is to understand the process and identify feasibility for establishing this process on a residential and community basis, where centralized processing could be set up to utilize both dedicated energy crops and agricultural left overs to produce ethanol and other products that could serve as income and energy sources for local farms and a local community.

As detailed on the
Switchgrass trials page  and Equipment Pics page , we are currently growing Switchgrass in Hammond NY, and also have Reed Canary Grass 
growing as well as sweetcorn.  For these home trials, I have chopped the grasses and corn stalks and then sent the resulting forage through the hammer mill for fine processing & breakdown of the material.

The feedstocks were them mixed with hydrated lime and placed in covered barrels for several months, this to simulate an ensiled environment.   One of these barrels of switchgrass is shown below:

Here the pretreated substrate was mixed with distilled water, pH and temperature stabilized and then a Cellulase enzyme was added using the hydrolysis set up shown below.    For both Switchgrass and corn stalks, I run a 27 hour agitation at 50 -  55 degrees Celcius.  During and after the 27 hour agitation, using a diabetes BG meter I was able to measure the presence of sugar (middle picture) in the slurry (far right picture below) as also shown below:

To ferment the Hydrolyzed Switchgrass and corn stalks, I used a standard homebrew (for beer) fermentation bucket with CO2 trap.   Resulting alcohol readings are below:

                                                         Switchgrass                                                                                                                   Corn Stalks

Distillation of the fermented worts was done using an electric hot plate (for better temperature control) and a standard distillation column that is used in homebrewing of beer: