Florida Company Produces U.S.'s First Commercial-Scale Cellulosic Ethanol Facility

INEOS Bio's Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, FL, has developed the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production facility in the U.S.

The Energy Department recognized the nation's first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production at INEOS Bio's Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, FL. Developed through a joint venture between INEOS Bio and New Planet Energy, the project uses a unique hybrid of gasification and fermentation technology—originally developed with Energy Department support starting in the 1990s—to convert wood scraps, grass clippings, and other waste materials into transportation fuels as well as energy for heat and power.

"Unlocking the potential for the responsible development of all of America's rich energy resources is a critical part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy," says Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "Today's announcement of commercial-scale cellulosic production represents an important benchmark for American leadership in this growing global industry. It also demonstrates the need for early-stage investment in innovative technologies that will help diversify our energy portfolio, reduce carbon pollution, and lead to tomorrow's energy breakthroughs."

As the President's Climate Action Plan made clear, biofuels have an important role to play in increasing our energy security, fostering rural economic development, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. The Energy Department's research and development efforts are helping to bring innovative, cost-cutting biofuel technologies on line, test the latest engineering advancements, and accelerate commercial production.

The Indian River County BioEnergy Center will have an annual output of eight million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from vegetative, yard, and municipal solid waste as well as six megawatts of clean, renewable power annually—enough to run the entire facility and provide excess power to the local community.

The project's gasification-fermentation technology—which produces fuel, heat and power—has its roots in a University of Arkansas research project, supported by a $5 million Energy Department investment over fifteen years. The department's early support helped this technology obtain a number of patents, with the core intellectual property purchased by INEOS Bio in 2008. In 2009, the INEOS Bio-New Planet Energy joint venture was awarded a $50 million Energy Department grant to design, construct, commission, and operate the Indian River BioEnergy Center. With a $130 million total project cost, the center created more than 400 direct construction, engineering and manufacturing jobs during its development and has 65 current full-time employees. More than 90% of its equipment was sourced by U.S. manufacturers across 10 states. The Vero Beach project will serve as a test bed for producing commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol with this innovative conversion technology—helping to inform future INEOS Bio facilities as well as other advanced biofuel projects across the country.