Cellulosic Technology Key to Reducing GHGs, Petroleum Dependency: ADM Tech Chief

Washington, D.C.

– Forecasts are for global food demand to double by 2050, while conventional energy sources and worldwide refining capacity fail to keep pace with world demand. Biomass is the key to satisfying the need for both, the chief technology officer of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) told Hart’s World Refining & Fuels Conference here last week. Food and fuel production are synergistic for the company, Michael Pacheco explained in a keynote speech to around 100 people. Technological improvements will be needed to convert 1.3 billion tons of biomass that the U.S. could produce to the heating value equivalent of 3.5 billion barrels of crude.

Specifically, ADM is paying particular attention to boosting cropland productivity, developing better feedstocks, creating new and improved products and decoupling biofuels from food, arable land and fresh water.Pacheco indicated how some technology gains might occur by describing how cellulosic ethanol production will evolve from corn-based ethanol. After the normal wet mill production process, cogeneration from coal is added for heat and power.

That’s followed by adding the dry mill process that produces more ethanol plus dried distillers grains, and then adding the different components that go into animal feed. Biomass is then added to the co-firing of coal for cogeneration; Pacheco said 85% of the energy used in ADM’s corn mills and ethanol plants will be derived from cogeneration in 2009. Cellulosic feeds (corn stover) would then be added to a new train of pretreatment, which undergoes hydrolysis and fermentation to be distilled into ethanol. Pacheco suggested the next step in efficiency would require legislation, namely the conversion of the energy inputs to be entirely biomass based, replacing the coal.

This addresses the concern regarding increased greenhouse gas production from biofuels. And ultimately, in an integrated biorefinery, fermented sugars would undergo thermochemical conversion, to be used for heat and power. Noting the energy requirements for biofuels, Pacheco cited another study showing that traditional ethanol and cellulosic ethanol require about 1.75 and 2.25 Btus, respectively, to produce 1 Btu of fuel. He emphasized that the use of lignin – the cellulosic material – to produce heat and power in an integrated biorefinery is what will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum dependency.

Pacheco cited studies of well-known government researchers and academics showing that current ethanol production technologies will result in 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) by 2040. Second generation biofuels will add another 2 to 3 billion BOE, and third generation saline-based aquaculture of biofuels 1 billion BOE more. It takes 64 billion gallons of ethanol to make 1 billion BOE. Over the shorter run, the studies he cited show the U.S. will fly past the 7.5 billion gal/year ethanol production marker from the Renewable Fuels Standard in six to ten months. Production is forecast to increase to 20 billion gal/year in 2016, 35 billion in 2022 and 60 billion in 2030.

“The second and third generation fuel costs will ramp up over time,” he said near the end of his talk. “The early generation technologies enjoy fairly good margins relative to the newer entrants in the field.” ADM currently produces 1.1 billion gal/year of ethanol, and 600 million gal/year of capacity is in development. The company also produces 450 million gal/year of biodiesel.Until last year, Pacheco was director of the National Bioenergy Center at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory – David Givens