Gen-X moves forward with advanced biorefinery plans

By Erin Voegele | March 23, 2011

A unique biorefinery being developed by Gen-X Energy Group Inc. in Moses Lake, Wash., is nearly complete. According to Ramon Benavides, the company’s co-founder and vice president of business development, Gen-X is in the final stage of air permit review for the facility.

A Burbank, Wash.-based biodiesel plant owned and operated by Gen-X was destroyed by a nonbiodiesel-related fire in 2009. Benavides said his company has been working on this new project since that time.

According to Benavides, Gen-X is converting an idle waste-to-ethanol plant to produce biodiesel and other biomass-based products. “This is an advanced biorefinery, and it will manufacture multiple products,” he said.

The company was awarded approximately $720,000 in grant funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year. Final U.S. DOE NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) approval was issued last week, Benavides said.  “That grant was awarded for the development of a multiphase advanced biorefinery project,” Benavides said. “The biodiesel unit is one component.” In addition, the facility will feature glycerin refining capacity and an advanced chemical production unit. According to Benavides, the plant will eventually have capacity for cellulosic fuels production, with the possibility of algae-based biodiesel production as well.

While Benavides said Gen-X is keeping details of the project confidential, he also noted that the first units for biodiesel production will have an annual capacity of 1.8 million gallons each and will expand with demand in a modular role out to 6 MMgy. The biodiesel production unit is skid mounted, he said, noting the design has been awarded a provisional patent.

The biodiesel capacity is currently expected to be commissioned in April, and reach full operational capacity by mid-May. According to Benavides, the glycerin refining capacity will likely be phased in later this summer.

“The true key to this [process] is how we produce heat, how we utilize that heat, and how we recover and use our methanol,” Benavides said, noting that the system is able to generate its own heat. According to Benavides, the system also uses significantly less power than traditional biorefineries and has achieved a zero greenhouse gas profile by eliminating the need for boilers and a zero toxic emission profile.

The biodiesel production unit will utilize all traditional biodiesel feedstocks, said Benavides. In addition, Gen-X does intend to petition the U.S. EPA to create new pathways for feedstocks under the RFS2, he said. 


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