Company plans 50-MW biomass-fired plant in Florida

Southeast Renewable Fuels LLC applied Sept. 12 at the Florida Public Service Commission for a waiver of certain rules related to its plans with an unnamed partner to develop a cogeneration facility that would produce electricity for sale.

Southeast Renewable and a business partner who wishes to remain anonymous are developing industrial facilities in Hendry County, Fla., that will produce ethanol, CO2 and potentially other products from biomass. Those industrial facilities will include a cogeneration facility that will produce electricity and useful thermal energy for use in the ethanol and CO2 production facilities. Southeast and confidential partner will co-own the electrical generation components of the cogeneration facility, and will obtain electricity produced by the co-owned equipment for use in their respective industrial facilities.

Southeast Renewable will own and operate the ethanol production plant and the partner will own and operate the CO2 plant. Southeast said it believes that the contemplated transactions, including the co-ownership of the electrical generating equipment in the cogeneration facility, will not subject either of them to regulation by the commission as a public utility.

The commission has never addressed the precise question presented here, which is whether joint owners of electrical generating equipment may serve their respective electricity needs from such jointly owned equipment without being deemed to be a “public utility” subject to the commission’s jurisdiction, the company noted.

The commission’s decision on this question will determine whether the partners can pursue the joint ownership business arrangement by which they plan to self-serve their electrical requirements. The commission’s declarations could even determine whether certain major facilities within the renewable energy complex – including the carbon dioxide recovery and refinement plant – are developed at all, the company said.

Any electricity generated above the needs of Southeast and the partner will be sold at wholesale to a Florida utility, as in Glades Electric Cooperative or Seminole Electric Cooperative.

The ethanol will be produced from, and the cogeneration facility will be fueled primarily by biomass derived from sweet sorghum that will be grown in the general vicinity of the project site on fallow or rotational sugar cane lands, as well as dedicated sorghum crop lands.

The project site is located on County Road 835 in eastern Hendry County. At a minimum, the project will consist of an ethanol plant with production capacity of 60,000 gallons per day; a CO2 plant that will recover CO2 from the ethanol plant’s fermentation process and refine it into food grade CO2; renewable-fueled electrical generating equipment; and cogeneration equipment that will capture useful thermal energy in the form of steam for use in the ethanol plant and the CO2 plant.

The project is designed to double in capacity, for both ethanol and power production, and Southeast expects to proceed with doubling the ethanol plant’s capacity within the first 24 months of operation. Ground was broken on the project on March 4 and at least the ethanol plant and the electrical generating and cogeneration equipment are expected to be in commercial operation in early 2015.

The electrical generation capacity of the project is initially projected to be 25 MW and will be capable of expansion to 50 MW (net of the generation equipment’s parasitic load). The power block will utilize a conventional boiler in whichsorghum bagasse will be burned to produce steam, which will drive a steam turbine generator to produce electricity. The boiler will also use small amounts of propane, fuel oil, or natural gas as startup fuel. The ethanol plant will have a maximum electric demand of about 10 MW, and the CO2 plant will have a maximum electric demand of approximately 1.5 MW.

The contact information for the company is: Southeast Renewable Fuels LLC, 6424 NW 5th Way, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33309, (954) 492-1588, E-mail: Apepper@serenewablefuels.com.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.