In what could prove to be a landmark development for waste energy technology, a chemical company announced this week that is has produced commercial quantities of ethanol from nonfood vegetative matter, including wood waste. The company, INEOS Bio, is a subsidiary of the European oil and chemical company INEOS. It produced the fuel at its Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Fla.
From The New York Times:
The process begins with wastes — wood and vegetative matter for now, municipal garbage later — and cooks it into a gas of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Bacteria eat the gas and excrete alcohol, which is then distilled. Successful production would eliminate some of the “food versus fuel” debate in the manufacturing of ethanol, which comes from corn.
The breakthrough is being hailed as a first by the Department of Energy, which helped fund the project. If ethanol can be produced economically from abundant nonfood sources, like yard trimmings or household trash, it could displace fuel made from oil. And keeping oil and its carbon in the ground is a vital step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo: The $130 million Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Fla. (INEOS)