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Cellulosic ethanol yields validated at Aemetis demonstration facility

Aemetis Advanced Products Keyes, Inc., a subsidiary of US-headed Aemetis Inc., has announced that it has received third-party validation from Leidos Engineering of ethanol and protein yields produced from the successful operation of its Integrated Demonstration Unit (IDU) at InEnTec’s Technology Center in Richland, Washington. Aemetis continuously operated its gas fermentation process for over 120 days, meeting the requirements for a USDA 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program guaranteed loan.

The Central Valley of California produces more than 1.6 million tons of orchard waste and nutshells annually from around 1 million acres of almond, pistachio and walnut orchards. (Above) walnut shells for disposal (photo courtesy Markku Bjökman).

According to a statement, the IDU proved out a yield of 77 US gallons (≈ 291 litres) of cellulosic ethanol per ton of biomass, closely matching yields predicted by Leidos engineering models developed from over 20 separate technology deployments. Using adjusted engineering models and subsequent results from the IDU, Leidos engineers expect the yield from the IDU to translate to commercial yields of approximately 96 gallons (≈ 363 litres) of cellulosic ethanol per ton of biomass at Aemetis’ planned 12 million gallon (≈ 45.4 million) per annum commercial facility in Riverbank, CA.

As announced earlier this month, Aemetis operated the IDU with 94 percent uptime, thus validating the combination of advanced arc furnace and gas fermentation technologies provided by LanzaTech and InEnTec to convert waste biomass into low carbon, renewable cellulosic ethanol and fish meal. The demonstration was conducted in order to verify yields for the fully integrated system, which included biomass handling, gasification, gas clean up, waste treatment, and distillation systems.

Yields produced by the IDU and verified by Leidos engineers were in line with the pro-forma expectations used for key financing activities, verifying the economics of the overall project. With the pro-forma validated, Aemetis is able to move towards the closing of its USDA 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program guaranteed loan and related financings.

The completion of the IDU project completes a major milestone in the implementation of Aemetis’ plan to construct a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility using agricultural waste feedstock. The high yields also confirm the successful integration of technology required for Aemetis to enter the cellulosic ethanol market and meet a key deliverable in securing a US$125 million dollar USDA loan guarantee. The cellulosic facility will allow Aemetis to help lead California’s initiatives for a clean energy future, said Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis.

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