WASHINGTON — At the Biomass Summit this week in Washington, people were talking about Mississippi, said Sumesh Arora, director of Strategic Biomass Solutions (SBS) for the Mississippi Technology Alliance.
Companies excited about developing in Mississippi were wood pellet manufacturers, cellulosic ethanol companies and those interested in using poultry waste for alternative energy source projects. About 175 people in private sector upper-level management positions and investors attended the summit.
“We must keep researching these (biofuel) methods and not cast them aside in the early stages, or we will be doing a disservice,” Arora said. “We must develop them to a point where they are economical, he said. “Right now, they’re not economical.” Technology must be built up to make significant dent in the oil supply, Arora added.
The United States now uses 20 million barrels, or 800 million gallons oil per day.
Representatives from the following companies attend the conference:
• California-based Blufire has announced plans to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Fulton utilizing non-food biomass such as wood
• Enerkem announced plans for a cellulosic ethanol plant in Pontotoc in March, which would use landfill trash
• Indeck Energy Services Inc. has begun construction on the Indeck Magnolia, LLC, biofuel plant, which will use agriculture and wood waste
• Rentech is working on technology for a plant in Natchez that would use fossil feedstocks to produce synthetic fuels and chemicals, or a coal-to-liquids process. It expects to have permits by 2010.
“I think that in the short term (this could be a couple of decades) ethanol is a viable fuel until better biofuels are developed or the technology to improve ethanol is substantially improved. Companies working on improving the cellulosic ethanol technologies take on a lot of risk, and we will have to have more people doing so before we see the optimal solutions,” Arora said. “The non-food crops biofuels industry is really just getting started, whereas the petroleum industry has now been around for almost a 100 years. We have a long way to go and the question for us is how does Mississippi play a role in moving these technologies forward.”
The SBS works with entrepreneurs, investors and economic developers to help commercial new technologies. The organization works on average with about 150 entrepreneurs annually and helps start-ups secure investors. SBS worked with Bomgar Corporation of Ridgeland, one of Mississippi’s fastest-growing private companies, in its early stages, Arora said.
A project currently being funded by SBS is the North Mississippi BioDiesel Inc. site is located in Union county, which will evaluate the effectiveness of a custom designed reactor vessel for the production of biodiesel from soy bean oil. Another project will explore the methanogenic conversion of glycerol, which is a biodiesel byproduct. A site for this research is not mentioned.