Canadian Biomass Magazine

Second generation ethanol cost prohibitive

December 2, 2011
By Scott Jamieson

Dec 2, 1011, Kingston, ON - Costs for second-generation ethanol processing are unlikely to be competitive until 2020, according to a unique Queen’s University study.

“This study really lays out in black and white where we are and where
we are going,” says Warren Mabee, an assistant professor in the School
of Policy Studies and Department of Geography. “It should prompt
companies to reassess (their processes going forward).”

The researchers found that building large scale facilities for
second-generation ethanol production will be more costly than building
plants for first-generation production. One reason is the extra
infrastructure necessary for significant and costly pre-treatment of
items like wood residue and waste paper. These replacements for corn and
sugar cane contain multiple kinds of sugar while corn starch consists
of pure glucose.

One solution to the high processing costs is companies responsible
for just one part of the process, not building huge plants responsible
for the entire process, Dr. Mabee said. This will reduce costs by
spreading out the costs between more companies.


“This is a real opportunity to reduce the cost of production,” says
Jamie Stephen, a Fellow at Queen’s University Institute for Energy and
Environmental Policy.

Blended with gasoline, ethanol has the potential to reduce dependency
on fossil fuels, but utilizing corn and sugarcane to create ethanol is
putting stress on these commodities.

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