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Reports from the Biofuels Frontier

By Anna Simet | January 11, 2013

The International Biomass Conference & Expo agenda was released today and has shaped up nicely, and I thought I’d share a bit about a panel that I think will garner a lot of interest.

Track four’s advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals panel “Reports from the Frontier: Commercialization Updates from Tomorrow's Advanced Biofuel and Bio-based Chemical Producers,” has been finalized, and as the title suggests, will host industry members that plan to share with you progress and technological advances that their respective companies have made.

When I first started at Biomass Magazine in mid-2008, one of the first companies I became familiar with was Enerkem Inc.  I believe at the time they were nearing completion of their demonstration-scale syngas-to-methanol and cellulosic ethanol facility in Westbury, Quebec, (they began making methanol in 2011 and cellulosic ethanol in 2012) and since then, it’s been pretty amazing to see how they have progressed, now having plants under construction in Edmonton, Alberta; Varennes, Quebec; and Pontotoc, Miss. 

During the panel, Enerkem Senior Vice President of Business Development Manager Tim Cesarek is going to share with you their experiences, and I’m sure he’ll provide an update on where they are at with each project.

Also to provide an update on his company’s commercialization progress will be Andrew Held, director of process engineering for Virent Energy Systems Inc. Virent has successfully produced bio-based gasoline and jet fuel from woody biomass, as well as bio-based paraxylene , which can be used to produce bioplastics. Last April, the company’s Wisconsin demonstration-scale facility was toured by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

An interesting tidbit about Virent—they have a partnership with Coca Cola to make 100 percent plant-based bottles.

Also on board the panel is Brian Davis, North American Coordinator of BioPetrol Ltd., which has a technology platform of turning sewage sludge to a crude synthetic oil via an improved version of Fischer-Tropsh technology.  The company scored a $300,000 grant from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist and a $400,000 grant from the Israel Water Authority to conduct advanced R&D., and is on the verge of constructing a demonstration pilot plant.

Jeff Manternach, CFO of IR1 Group LLC, is the final speaker on the panel. IR1 Group is a complete project development, engineering, construction and operations services company, and has an impressive project profile, which includes construction and operation of eight dry-mill corn based plants and is the lead developer of a next-gen energy beet based project in California, as well as a biomass gas-to-liquids project in Colorado.

 Lisa Dyson, CEO of Kiverdi Inc., will moderate the panel.

I think some of the most interesting panels to attend at conferences are the “real- life experience” panels, such as this one. After all, the reason our industry is where it is today is because we’ve built upon the work of those who came before us.

Hope to see you all in Minneapolis in April—check out the International Biomass Conference & Expo agenda here.