Breakthrough for Mission NewEnergy

03/11/2008 - 11:39

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Perth-based Mission NewEnergy Ltd has produced first bio-ethanol from non food agricultural waste material, which sets up the company to produce the fuel from a range of low-cost and readily available feedstock.

Perth-based Mission NewEnergy Ltd has produced first bio-ethanol from non food agricultural waste material, which sets up the company to produce the fuel from a range of low-cost and readily available feedstock.

The breakthrough comes from the company's first pilot plant which was set up in a joint venture with a scientific team in India.

Shares in the company climbed 7.5c to 48.5c at 13:48 AEDT.

 

Below is the announcement:

 

Mission NewEnergy Limited (ASX:MBT) is pleased to announce that its first pilot plant, established using patent-pending technologies, has successfully produced ethanol from agricultural waste material. The pilot plant was set up in a joint venture with a scientific team in India.

The development means that Mission will be able to produce bio-ethanol from a range of low cost and abundantly available feedstock, eliminating the need to utilise valuable food crops as feedstock. (Please see technical section below for more details).

With over 360,000 acres of planted Jatropha, Mission will have access to significant amounts of Jatropha waste material as well as other agricultural waste produced by farms in the vicinity. The new technology therefore also allows the company to derive further value from its existing Jatropha acreage. The technology can also be rolled out globally as it is able to process various different waste streams.

Mission NewEnergy Managing Director Nathan Mahalingam said "the move into sustainable bioethanol is consistent with Mission's vision to become an integrated world-class provider of sustainable renewable energy."

"It is widely accepted that the future of bio-ethanol is in the use of non-food crops, by utilising biomass wood, straws, fuel energy crops, paper pulp and other abundantly available agricultural waste products or biomass," said Mr Mahalingam.

"While other technologies have been able to produce bio-ethanol from biomass, they have suffered from a low conversion rate of raw material to bio-ethanol or high conversion cost.Specifically, the high conversion cost is associated with the need to grow special low lignin and low silica grasses, the need to use expensive proprietary enzymes or high capital and operating costs associated with harsh operating conditions of acid concentration/temperature etc. These high production costs make other projects commercially not viable."

"None of these challenges exist within Mission's technology and we believe, this positions Mission to become one of the few successful next-generation ethanol producers."

"This technological breakthrough is a significant development for Mission and has the potential to take the Company to a new level in the renewable energy industry," he said.

Mission will continue to further optimise the technologies and yield at the pilot plant and will simultaneously work towards commercialising the technologies.

Technical Overview - About Ligno-Cellulosic Bio-ethanol

Traditionally bio-ethanol has been produced based on conversion of sugars into bio-ethanol (example: Sugarcane in Brazil) or starch to ethanol (example: corn or wheat starch in US and Europe). Such processes have a negative or low positive energy balance.

Plant biomass, on average, contains cellulose (38-50%), hemi-cellulose (23-32%) and lignin (15- 25%). One of the key challenges in using a wide variety of readily available biomass has been the high content of lignin present in the biomass and high content of silica, especially in waste biomass such as wheat/corn/rice straw, leaves, etc. The lignin component must be separated in order to produce bio-ethanol, since it interferes with the hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose.

Removal of lignin can be achieved using expensive proprietary enzymes, however the high content of silica prevents utilisation of separated lignin.

Recently, a few companies have been successful in removing the lignin from cellulose by utilising expensive enzymes. Alternatively, some success has been announced with using high concentrated acids and very high temperatures making the process high cost, energy intensive and generating hazardous waste. Further, these processes are suited to specially grown biomass with low lignin/silica and high cellulosic content, which results in high cost of production of bioethanol.

Mission's technology allows it to:

1. Use a wide variety of plant biomass, with varied ranges of lignin and silica content. Such biomass comprises leaves, wheat/rice/corn/barley straw and other agricultural waste and hence, is abundantly available at low cost;

2. Separate lignin fully from cellulose and hemi-cellulose enabling complete hydrolysis of the separated components into C5 and C6 sugars respectively. This is achieved without the use of any enzymes. Achievement of complete hydrolysis and of both, C5 and C6, results in higher yields.

3. Convert the separated lignin into a source of renewable energy in the form of electricity. The commercial scale plant is expected to generate surplus electricity in excess of its own requirements.

4. Produce bio-ethanol with lower consumption of heat and electricity, thereby reducing the cost of production;

5. Produce bio-ethanol with no waste products or hazardous effluent and all by products are either saleable or consumed within the plant.

This process allows the commercial use of a wide variety of agricultural wastes like rice straw, wheat straw, barley straw, millet straw, corn stalks, bagasse, fallen leaves, palm biomass, Jatropha biomass and other grasses, twigs, etc.

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