A Couple Questions with Some Cellulosic Ethanol Experts

Enjoy the short and random interview. You will be seeing more of these on my blog.

The Cellulosic Ethanol Experts:
Mark Holtzapple is a professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M.
Charles Wyman is the Ford Motor company chair in environmental engineering at the University of California at Riverside. He is a co-founder of Mascoma.
Lee Lynd is a professor of engineering and an adjunct professor of biology at Dartmouth University. He is a co-founder of Mascoma

Also, Vinod Khosla and David Pimental give their two-cents.

Konrad: How many years will it take for ethanol produced from cellulose to reach 15 billion gallons per year? What is currently the biggest hurdle to overcome? 

Mark Holtzapple: The future is hard to predict. My guess is that it will take 10 years. The hurdle depends upon the technology. Some processes are still doing fundamental laboratory work. Others (ours) are ready to go commercial. We need access to capital. which is our major limitation.

Charles E. Wyman: It took corn ethanol about 25 years to reach over 5 billion gallons of ethanol production. However, the urgency is greater than ever, so hopefully it can happen more quickly for cellulosic if we make a major commitment to make it happen. The biggest challenge is overcoming the risk of first applications as investors are reluctant to commit large sums of money to new technologies even though the costs are competitive.

Lee Lynd: Unlikely to be less than 10 years and could be much more. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the recalcitrance of cellulosic biomass, without a doubt.

Konrad: What is your estimated ERoEI of cellulosic ethanol?

Mark Holtzapple: 18:1

Lee Lynd: Return on investment on projects will have to competitive with other investments to get financing, which means approximately 15% for mature technology and higher for immature technology because of the higher risk.

Konrad: Should the U.S. keep its tariff on Brazil's ethanol? Would it benefit cellulosic ethanol if we removed it or kept it?

Mark Holtzapple: I would rather import ethanol from Brazil than oil from Venezuela or the Middle East. There is a lot of cellulosic waste (bagasse) from the Brazilian sugar-to-ethanol process. My guess is that it would be better to promote ethanol production in Brazil and generate feedstock for cellulose-to-ethanol. Increasing imports from Brazil should be done in a way that does not destroy domestic ethanol production.

Charles E. Wyman: Low cost ethanol from Brazil would increase the risk of first applications of cellulosic ethanol, further delaying its introduction. Ultimately, the only way we can produce large quantities of sustainable transportation fuel with low GHG emissions is via cellulosics, and we must seek ways to promote not impede its introduction.

Vinod Khosla: Yes, only for E85 sales.

David Pimentel: I would like the tariff removed from ethanol coming from Brazil and the $6 billion in subsidies removed from ethanol production in the US. It would alse be beneficial if the Brazilian also removed their heavy subsidies for ethanol production.

Konrad: Mr. Lynd, when will Mascoma's first plant be built? How much ethanol will it produce per year?

Lee Lynd: Some ethanol will likely be produced at a demonstration scale within calendar year 2008.


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  • 8/3/2007 6:29 PM Jerry D wrote:
    Good stuff, what did u expect when u asked pimentel that question? would he ever say anything different...
    Reply to this
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