Boston, Massachusetts-based, NewEnergyBlue, has acquired exclusive rights to Inbicon bio-conversion technology throughout the Americas and as its first project will turn North Dakota wheat straw into carbon-neutral automotive fuel. The technology license was purchased from Danish company, Ørsted. Ørsted developed the technology over 15 years at a cost exceeding $200 million, proving efficacy and commercial operation at its refinery in Kalundborg for close to five of those years.
Inbicon facility in Kalundborg, Denmark (NewEnergyBlue)
“A number of our executives worked with Ørsted developing this technology,” says Thomas Corle, CEO of NewEnergyBlue. “Our engineers continued to optimize the process of the refineries we’re designing today.”
The company is hoping to build a series of biomass refineries across grain belts and sugar-growing regions to process agricultural residues like wheat straw, cornstalks, and sugar bagasse, converting them into a high-octane advanced ethanol that’s more than 100 percent below the carbon baseline of grain ethanol–more than 140 percent below gasoline.
The company’s plan is to feed fuel markets in states like California and other countries battling carbon pollution with policies that incentivize low-carbon biofuels made from agricultural residues, according to Corle.
But counting carbon isn’t the only way of keeping score. “Using Inbicon technology at the core of our refinery gives a clean process–no acid or high ammonia used–unlike other technologies at commercial scale.”
NewEnergyBlue’s refinery prefers high-pressure steam followed by an enzyme bath to break down the biomass fibers into sugars and lignin that are valuable for making liquid and solid biofuels.
Having cleared a major technology acquisition hurdle, the company now expects groundbreaking for its Spiritwood, North Dakota, refinery in 2020. The Spirit Biomass Refinery will be owned by NewEnergyBlue and its equity holders, including regional investors.
Albury “Bo” Fleitas, NewEnergyBlue’s new president, sees “investor interest picking up—in part due to the tight margins on wind and solar projects, in the main due to projected double-digit returns on equity from our refineries thanks to our sustainable business model and a huge market appetite.”