CelloFuel Portable Biomass Refinery

CelloFuel modules cost-effectively convert sugar-rich biomass such as sugar beet, sugar cane and sweet sorghum to ethanol. CelloFuel modules use patented and patent-pending vacuum infusion technology to produce ethanol by infusing a proprietary reagent into the biomass under vacuum and then fermenting the whole tubers (beets) or stalks (billets) in an anaerobic environment. The ethanol is then extracted using solar distillation.

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Reduces the operating cost of extracting sugars

About 35% of the conventional cost of extracting sugar from sugar cane or sweet sorghum is the cost of crushing the stalks. The CelloFuel method is a much less expensive way to get the sugar from the stalks while simultaneously fermenting these sugars to ethanol.

Much of the conventional cost of extracting sugar from sugar beets is the cost of using hot water to extract sugar with diffusion. The CelloFuel technology is a much less expensive way to ferment the sugars with low-cost equipment and low energy costs.

Reduces the capital cost of extracting sugars

The initial CelloFuel vessel is a 200 liter (55 gallon) black polyethylene bag, which at about $1 apiece costs about $5 per cubic meter - the lowest cost of any vacuum vessel.

The polyethylene bag is put inside a 200 liter drum, is filled with biomass and reagent, and then a vacuum is used to infuse the reagent into the biomass.

After infusion, the polyethylene bag is stored on the ground, ferments for 3 to 4 days, and then is stored (possibly for many months) without degradation until the ethanol is removed with solar vacuum stripping.

When the fermentation completes, the stripping of ethanol uses heat from the sun as the heat source.

Project Status (April 24, 2016)

Fermented more than 90% of sugar in sugar beet in 22 hours with vacuum infusion.

Fermented more than 90% of sugar in sugarcane in 24 hours with vacuum infusion.

Fermented more than 90% of sugar in sweet sorghum in 20 hours with vacuum infusion.

Released Press Release about new technologies.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted US Patent 9,194,012 Methods and systems for producing sugars from carbohydrate-rich substrates.

Canadian Patent Office issued notice of allowance for Canadian Patent Application CA 2884907.

Submitted Patent Prosecution Highway application to EU, Russian and Chinese patent offices.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued notice of allowance for US Patent Application 14/924,462 Methods and systems for producing fermentation products from carbohydrate-rich substrates.

Submitted U.S. Patent App. No. 14/940,390.

Submitted U.S. Patent App. No. 14/966,650 and International Patent App. No. PCT/US15/65416 Methods for Fermenting Carbohydrate-rich crops.

Submitted patent application to Brazilian, Indian and Argentinian patent offices.

Made first presentation of our vacuum infusion technology at Graintek 2015 in Moscow.

Presented at BIOMASS: Fuel & Power, April 6-7 in Moscow.

Presented at World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, April 17-20 in San Diego, CA.

Beginning design and construction of first CelloFuel prototype using 200 liter black polyethylene bags.

Distribution of Sugar-rich Crops

Distribution of Sugar-Rich Crops (click here for bigger image)

Converts sugar-rich biomass to ethanol near the harvest site

CelloFuel modules cost-effectively convert sugar-rich biomass to ethanol near the harvest site. Our initial focus is on sugar beets, sugar cane and sweet sorghum. Crops are harvested as usual, but can be kept closer to the harvest site for conversion to ethanol.

Lengthens the time for processing a crop

Most sugar-rich biomass needs to be processed quickly after harvest to prevent spoilage, but this results in equipment not being used year-round. The CelloFuel modules immediately infuse a reagent into sugar-rich biomass, and the resulting fermentation allows the biomass to be stored without degradation for up to a year. This allows efficient year-round production of ethanol.

Reduces transportation costs of biomass

One of the major costs of producing ethanol from biomass is the cost of transporting the biomass to the biorefinery. Cellulosic feedstocks have low bulk density and are costly to transport. Conversion to ethanol at the source is an efficient way to reduce transportation costs.

For instance, a truck holding 12 m3 of sugar beets can produce 780 kg of ethanol, and the same truck holding sugar cane can produce 294 kg of ethanol. However, a 12 m3 truck holding of 50% ethanol solution holds 6000 kg of ethanol.

Reduces spoilage of biomass

Sugar-rich biomass begins to spoil immediately after harvest because microorganisms are attracted to sugar and because the biomass breathes (respires). Because the CelloFuel modules quickly convert sugar-rich biomass to ethanol-rich biomass, problems of spoilage are reduced.

Advanced Technologies

CelloFuel modules use patented technologies protected by US Patent Number 9,194,012 and patent-pending technologies in U.S. Patent App. No. 14/940,390 titled "Methods for Fermenting Carbohydrate-rich Crops".

Multiple feedstocks

CelloFuel modules can produce ethanol from most sugar-rich biomass, including sugar beets, sugar cane and sweet sorghum.

Transportable modules

CelloFuel modules can be transported close to harvest sites where sugar-rich biomass is collected and processed. Everything necessary for 1 hectare of crop can be transported in a small truck, and consists of nestable plastic 200 liter (55 gallon) drums for biomass infusion, sufficient black polyethylene bags to hold the whole crop, vacuum pumps, mixers, solar panels and 12 VDC batteries for the vacuum pumps and mixers (charged by the solar panels).

Pre-assembled modules

CelloFuel modules use 200 liter (55 gallon) black polyethylene bags. The vacuum apparatus and solar distillation apparatus are shipped pre-assembled and can be installed in a few hours.

Power requirements

The only power required is 12 VDC power for the vacuum pump and mixer for the reagent, both of which can be powered by a 12 VDC battery which is kept charged by a solar panel. This allows operation of CelloFuel modules in remote locations without utility power or diesel generators.

Water requirements

CelloFuel modules require little or no water, given that water can be recovered from the sugar-rich biomass. The initial reagent preparation needs 30 C warm water, and this warm water is also produced with solar heating.

Other requirments

CelloFuel modules are loaded with biomass at the harvest site, with size reduction to about 50 mm. After fermentation and ethanol stripping, the remainder is returned to the field and serves as fertilizer or animal feed. Individual bags can be handled with a cart by a single person or can be stacked and moved with standard farm machinery.

Ethanol production

A single 200 liter polyethylene bag can hold about 160 kg of size-reduced biomass (sugar cane, sugar beet, sweet sorghum). At about 18% sugar content, this produces about 18 liters (4.8 gallons) of ethanol at a cost of about $1 for the polyethylene bag.