Fiberight LLC signs multi-year deal with TMO

24th September 2010  |    |  0 Comments

Maryland-based Fiberight LLC has signed a 20-year, $25 million-per-year contract with UK-based TMO Renewables Ltd. for the use of TMO’s proprietary microorganisms to convert high fiber industrial municipal solid waste (MSW) material into cellulosic ethanol and other biochemicals.

According to President Craig Stuart-Paul, Fiberight intends to integrate TMO’s proprietary TM242 strain of bacterium into its unique production process at its demonstration-scale MSW-to-ethanol plant in Blairstown, Iowa. Fiberight repurposed the 50,000-square-foot facility under its Fiberight-Blairstown Operating LLC name shortly after it was acquired in November 2009. The facility was originally a corn-based ethanol plant owned and operated by Xethanol LLC.

Initially, the Blairstown facility will use pulp and paper wastes sourced from a paper plant in Cedar Rapids as feedstock. Other industrial wastes and processed MSW from Fiberight’s operations in Lawrenceville, Va. will be integrated as feedstock at a later date.

Fiberight intends to scale-up to commercial production once demonstration scale evaluations are complete. Scale-up activities are expected to start during spring 2011, with commercial production anticipated by the end of 2011. At targeted full production, the Blairstown plant is expected produce 6 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol from approximately 350 tons of wastes per day, according to Stuart-Paul.

Prior to its agreement with TMO, Fiberight was awarded a $2.9 million grant by the Iowa Power Fund Board for the development of its Blairstown facility to reach commercial scale.

Fiberight uses a novel technology platform that fractionates industrial waste and other MSW material into a series of elements where it can then create a homogenous cellulosic pulp that’s comprised of approximately 80 percent C5 and C6 sugars, according to Stuart-Paul. The company has demonstrated the feasibility of this process at its pilot plant in Lawrenceville, Virginia for three years.

“It’s relatively low in hemicelluloses and very low in lignin, which we can then effectively convert that pulp into a prehydrolysis to get to oligomeric sugars,” Stuart-Paul said, adding that the process allows for the recycling and reuse of enzymes. “From there, we do a proprietary fermentation of the oligomeric sugars at 135 degrees Centigrade to get cellulosic ethanol.”

The hemicelluloses pulp, Stuart-Paul said, can be modified to produce cellulosic ethanol and a range of biochemicals such as d-lactic acid and succinates, though Stuart-Paul said that the company sees cellulosic ethanol being its core product in the short-term.

“If we have cheap cellulosic sugars, which is the bottom line of what we do, we’re going to be looking for the highest and best value pathway for those sugars and if that value pathway is to biochemicals in the future then that’s the way we’re going to go once we work out the technical issues,” he said.

Under terms of the agreement, Fiberight and TMO intend to jointly design and build 15 MSW-to-ethanol plants across the U.S. within the next five years, with a particular focus on municipalities that have high-stranded trash costs or landfill limitations. For each plant, TMO will receive an initial one-off design fee plus recurring annual revenue.

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