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Biofuel: Enerkem Transforms Waste into Ethanol

Enerkem Transforms Waste into Ethanol News – Do you ever imagine before that the waste can be converted into bio ethanol? Well, most people never know it. But, the first solution which will be occurred from this waste convertion is that there will be no more problems related to waste processing, no more piles of garbage, and no more difficulties in recycling waste. Most likely, it will happen in the future as various companies have been working to make ethanol from old utility poles and household waste, and one of them is Enerkem.

Enerkem is a company based in Montreal which announced its achievement of receiving $60 million investment from major independent oil refiner Valero, and trash-hauling company Waste Management, earlier this week. Until now, the total investment in Enerkem is $130 million.

This process proved expensive and has a high difficulty level as ethanol made ​​from waste is a type of cellulosic biofuels. This means that it is derived from cellulose, non-food plant materials. So if we compare it with starch to make ethanol from corn and grain, processing cellulosic biofuels offer more advantages and better result than starch, especially, it allows the process to increase ethanol production without the use of food resources.

In addition, Enerkem also operates a pilot plant and commercial-scale plant in Quebec which also constructs a commercial plant in Edmonton, Canada, with funding from the Alberta government. And in Pontotoc, Mississippi, with $50 million DOE grant. Each of the two plants will consume about 100,000 tonnes of waste per year.

Biofuel: Enerkem Transforms Waste into EthanolEnerkem’s technology works by shredding urban solid waste and then heating it to 400° C (750° F).  The waste produces gas, includes hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which are trapped while the carbon dioxide and other impurities are filtered out. Then, the pure gas is run over a catalyst, which converts it into methanol. The methanol can be converted into ethanol or other chemical feedstocks.

The biggest advantage of this technology is the lower carbon dioxide emissions which can’t be so well produced by ethanol manufacture from corn. Enerkem noted that the process requires natural gas or propane to start, but the excess heat generated by the gasification process can be used to continue running the system with boiling water to generate electricity. Furthermore, the process continues to waste from landfills, where it can provide from methane. Using the garbage is also beneficial from an economic perspective since Enerkem paid to dispose of waste, raw materials are “cost-negative.”

Data reference: Physorg

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