Ineos Bio to sell ethanol business, including Vero Beach plant

By Erin Voegele | September 07, 2016

Ineos Bio has announced its intent to sell its ethanol business, including the Ineos New Planet BioEnergy demonstration plant in Vero Beach, Florida, and the Ineos Bio USA Research Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, via a bid process targeting year end completion. The company said it has received expressions of interest from a number of potential suitors, is progressing negotiations, and hopes to make a decision on bidders and sale by the end of the year.

In a statement, Ineos Bio said the U.S. market for ethanol has changed and the economic drivers for development of the technology by Ineos are no longer aligned with the company’s strategic objectives. As a result, the company intends to sell its ethanol business.

The statement also indicates Ineos spent more than eight years and $300 million developing and commercializing its cellulosic technology. “The Vero Beach demonstration plant has achieved continuous operations and commercial scale syngas fermentation and has been instrumental in identifying various process improvements to be incorporated into the design and construction of the next generation of bioethanol plants based on the technology,” said the company.

Ineos Bio broke ground on the Vero Beach demonstration plant in February 2011.The facility uses a gasification fermentation process to convert cellulosic waste materials, such as yard and vegetative waste, into ethanol. In addition to having the capacity to produce 8 MMgy of ethanol, the plant also can produce up to 6 MW of electricity.

Construction was completed on the facility in 2012, and commissioning began in June of that year. The plant was producing renewable power by November 2012.   In July 2013, Ineos Bio announced the plant was also producing cellulosic ethanol at commercial scale. A few months later, in December 2013, Ineos Bio released an operational update, noting the facility would require certain modifications and upgrades to build its onstream performance and reliability. 

In September 2014, the company announced a major turnaround had been completed at the facility, including technology upgrades, and that the plant was being brought back online. Improvements included the installation of equipment to remove impurities from one of the plant’s process streams, which had been negatively impacting operations. Around that time, a Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Air Resource Management document had revealed the plant had produced little to no ethanol due to the production of low levels of hydrogen cyanide, which is toxic to the bio-organisms in the fermentation process. The installation of wet scrubbers to remove the hydrogen cyanide was expected to solve that problem.

Earlier this year, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory updated its annual survey of U.S. non-starch ethanol and renewable hydrocarbon biofuel producers. The report, titled “2015 Survey of Non-Starch Ethanol and Renewable Hydrocarbon Biofuel Producers,” provided an inventory of the domestic advanced biofuels industry as of the end of 2015. Within that report, NREL noted Ineos Bio’s Vero Beach plant originally became operational in 2012 but was idled in 2015 while working on mechanical improvements and was expected to resume operations sometime this year.