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Biofuel center to replace citrus plant in Florida

The plant hopes to prove that converting feedstock, forestry waste, agricultural waste, and household yard and vegetable waste into biofuels is commercially viable.

Artist's rendering of the Indian River BioEnergy Center when complete. Ineos

Construction began yesterday in Florida on the grounds of a former citrus-processing factory to build one of the first commercial-scale biofuel plants in the U.S.

When completed and fully operational, the Indian River BioEnergy Center is expected to produce 8 million gallons of bio-ethanol per year.

The center will be run by Ineos New Planet BioEnergy (INPB), a joint venture formed by Ineos Bio, a subsidiary of the chemical conglomerate Ineos, and New Planet Energy, a company specializing in the commercialization of sustainable refinery technology.

The plant will use technology developed by Ineos that enables bacteria to produce biogas from a wide array of materials--not just biogas from a specific set of cellulosic crops, or biofuel from wood byproducts. The raw materials that will feed into the Florida biofuel plant will include feedstock, forestry waste, agricultural waste, household yard and vegetable waste, and other municipal solid waste, according to INPB.

In addition to creating biofuel, the plant will produce an additional 6 megawatts of power directly of which 2 megawatts will be fed back into the Florida electricity grid.

The plant is being built in part with a $2.5 million grant from the state of Florida and a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Integrated Biorefinery program. There is also a conditional commitment for another $75 million in the form of a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Biorefinery Assistance Program, according to Ineos.

What's most interesting about this plant is not its immediate energy contribution or even being one of the first commercial biofuel plants, but it's very open pitch as a technology showcase for Ineos, which seems to be looking to show the world that its technology is commercially scalable and available for license.

"Our goal is to not only create a local source for advanced biofuels and renewable energy, but also to enable people worldwide to learn about this exciting, new clean energy technology," INPB President David King said in a statement.

"As part of our goal of advancing the biofuels industry, educating people about the benefits of this technology, and creating demand for advanced biofuels, we will continue to license this world-changing technology to partners across the U.S. and beyond, bringing secure, renewable fuel and power to communities worldwide," Peter Williams, chairman of INPB and CEO of Ineos Bio, said in a statement.

The plant follows a trend predicted recently in an Ernst & Young report, which asserted that while China may have certain strengths in the alternative fuels and vehicles industries, the U.S. will thrive when it comes to biofuels and biotechnology, as well as patent licensing and investment.