Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Source: Kumari Kelly, Sentinel Staff Writer
Citrus peel in fuel tank? Ethanol’s juicy new twist
Central Florida’s citrus groves could play a key role in filling up your
car’s fuel tank in a futuristic Florida.
A $5.9 million plant planned in Auburndale will produce ethanol from
citrus peels with the help of a $500,000 grant as part of the state’s
“Farm to Fuel” initiative, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services
Commissioner Charles H. Bronson announced Tuesday.
In all, $25 million in renewable energy grants were awarded, including the
grant to Southeast Biofuels LLC, a subsidiary of Xethanol Corp., a New
York-based publicly traded company, for the citrus peel project in Polk
County. U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers in Winter Haven have
worked for years on the technology.
“Florida is particularly interested in generating renewable fuels from
biomass and cellulose,” said Larry Parsons, a professor at the University
of Florida/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
“Florida has the climate and land to produce a great deal of biomass.”
The ethanol plant, which will lease space from Cutrale Citrus Juices USA
Inc. in Polk County, will use a 10,000-gallon fermenter and about 67,000
pounds of citrus peels per batch. The goal is to have a plant that could
make 8 million gallons of ethanol a year using 800,000 tons of citrus
As early as 1992, researchers at the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service
in Winter Haven began looking at ways to use citrus peels for ethanol
fuel, but costs of making it compared to the cost of gasoline offset the
practicality. In 2003, Bill Widmer, a researcher with the center, began
building on the early work of his predecessor and not only lowered the
cost but also recovered limonene, a product used as a fragrance and
Widmer estimates that Florida’s citrus waste could produce from 40 million
to 60 million gallons of ethanol a year. Florida drivers are expected to
use more than 9 billion gallons of gasoline in a year.
“Most ethanol is produced by fermenting corn, and because of recent
interest, the price of corn has nearly doubled since 2005,” wrote Parsons
in a recent trade magazine.
The value of ethanol has fluctuated from $1.25 to more than $4 per gallon
and can be made from orange peels for about $1.80 per gallon.
Currently about 3.5 million to 5 million tons a year of citrus peels are
used for cattle feed, which could affect the future of the ethanol
Since the interest in citrus peels has broadened, the value of the
cattle-feed citrus-pulp pellets has gone up to $135 per ton — nearly
three times what it was during most of the 1990s, Parsons said. Citrus
waste’s rising cost makes it a less-attractive alternative, however.
The Auburndale project is one of two Central Florida grant recipients of
the dozen doled out. The University of Central Florida also received
$500,000 for a project in Cocoa to generate clean-burning synthetic fuels
from animal waste and other biomass.
Proposals were judged on things such as their use of Florida-grown crops
and their potential to expand agribusiness in the state.
In a prepared statement, Bronson said, “We believe that awards such as
these are critical in triggering the development of a renewable energy
industry in Florida. We’re hopeful that these projects will yield positive
results and serve as a catalyst for major commercial investment in this
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