Cellulosic ethanol plant planned for Spiritwood, N.D.

By Ann Bailey | April 13, 2016

The CEO and a founding partner of New Energy Investors met with North Dakota state officials April 12 to discuss a $150 million cellulosic ethanol plant the Pennsylvania company is proposing to build in Spiritwood, N.D.

The plant, located in the Spiritwood Industrial Park, would process corn stover and wheat straw into ethanol and lignin. Both biomass materials may be purchased under contract with farmers, said Thomas Corle, New Energy Investors founding partner.  

On April 11, Corle and New Energy Investors CEO Robert Johnsen had met with members of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. to discuss the proposed ethanol plant, which would use about 195,000 tons of corn stover and straw annually to produce 13.5 million gallons of ethanol and 90,000 tons of lignin per year. The JSDC voted to approve a $75,000 match to a $225,000 North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization grant for which New Energy Investments applied.

If the company is awarded the APUC grant it will use the money to study feasibility and early project definition, Corle said.

The Spiritwood cellulosic plant would use proprietary technology developed by Inbicon, a subsidiary of Danish energy company DONG Energy A/S. Like many developers, Inbicon has worked on the technology for many years.  

Inbicon’s Kalundborg, Denmark, 4-metric-ton-per-hour demonstration facility passed 17,000 hours of operation in 2014, according to the New Energy website, using wheat straw. The Inbicon biomass conversion technology combines hyrdrothermal pretreatment with enzymatic hydrolysis, converting biomass to sugars and clean lignin.

Groundbreaking on the North Dakota plant is expected to begin June in 2017 with construction completed in spring 2019, Corle said.  The plant gradually will ramp up production over an eight-month period.

New Energy Investment and LeifMark eventually likely will become one, Corle said. He cofounded LeifMark to develop Inbicon technology in North America. Three plants with larger capacities also are in development, he said. Cities in Minnesota and other states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan have been checked out as possible locations for the three additional plants.