ICM begins 1,000-hour cellulose switchgrass campaign
ICM officially began a 1,000-hour, fully-integrated switchgrass campaign to prove out its patent-pending Generation 2.0 co-located cellulose to ethanol process on March 12, 2015. Prior to starting this effort, ICM solved significant process challenges in feedstock handling and pretreatment unit operations that are crucial to the commercial success of any cellulose-to-ethanol process. In the process of finding workable solutions to implement its Generation 2.0 process that uses cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass, energy sorghum, and corn stover, ICM identified how to effectively mill feedstocks, conveyed them to the conversion process, and pumped them into and through the pretreatment reactor without excessive equipment wear and process line fouling. These challenges were not insignificant. At one point, some equipment parts were failing in less than 48 hours due to the abrasive nature of these feedstocks. ICM has also determined how to efficiently separate the unconverted part of the feedstock from the sugar-containing liquid prior to being fermented into ethanol.
Why is this important?
This allows ICM to make a high-value, single-cell protein animal feed co-product from its fermentation yeast as part of its Generation 2.0 process. ICM is the only cellulosic technology that makes an animal feed co-product as part of its cellulosic technology process. ICM’s process is based on a co-location philosophy that integrates facilities and process operations of a corn ethanol plant and a cellulosic ethanol plant to achieve synergies that improve efficiencies of operations in both plants as shown below.
What is important about 1,000 hours of continuous run time? To commercialize a new, untested technology that could require a $200 - $250 million investment, is financially very risky. A successful 1,000-hour, fully-integrated process campaign will qualify ICM’s technology for federal loan guarantee programs that take a large part of the financial risk out of initial investments. Conducting two separate 1,000-hour integrated process campaigns are a key part of ICM’s current contract with the DOE. One integrated campaign will be conducted with switchgrass as feedstock and the other one will be conducted with energy sorghum as feedstock. Although the process outputs are cellulosic ethanol, single-cell protein animal feed, and a solid fuel for combustion as a renewable supplement to coal-fired power plants, ICM’s primary product from these campaigns is to generate data. The data will be used to provide inputs into a techno-economic computer model that will be used to show commercial economic viability under various market conditions with actual operating data. This helps mitigate risk for ICM’s customers. ICM looks forward to updating its progress of this important piece of development work that leads ICM to the commercialization of ICM’s Generation 2.0 cellulosic ethanol technology.
ICM has already proven its Generation 1.5 Grain Cellulose to Ethanol™ process technology (Gen 1.5) in 1,200-hour and 500-hour, fully-integrated process campaigns in 2012 and 2013, respectively, as shown below. ICM’s Gen 1.5 technology gives corn ethanol plants the ability to convert the cellulosic embedded in corn kernel fiber to cellulosic ethanol. This will allow plants to increase the yield of ethanol produced from a bushel of corn by up to 10%, generate D3 RINS based on cellulosic ethanol production, increase starch conversion, and increase distillers corn oil recovery. This technology is already available for commercial sale.