Proterro commissions pilot plant in FL

October 2, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

proterroEwing, NJ-based Proterro, Inc., the only biofeedstock company that makes sucrose instead of extracting it from crops or deconstructing cellulosic materials, is in the process of commissioning a pilot plant in Florida. With the help of U.S. engineering, architectural and management services company Middough Inc., Proterro has completed a preliminary design, layout and cost estimate for a demonstration-scale plant.

“We scaled up our novel photobioreactor design and conducted independent functionality tests that confirmed the unit’s robustness,” said Proterro CEO Kef Kasdin. “The modular photobioreactors, which are made from off-the-shelf materials, including polyethylene, can withstand category 1 hurricane winds,” she explained, adding, “because of the materials used and the innovative design, we also have been able to validate low fabrication costs.”

Kasdin also said that Proterro, using CO2, sunlight and water, lowers the cost of sugar production to $.05/lb through a novel, scalable biosynthetic process that integrates its patented, highly productive microorganism with its unique, patent-pending photobioreactor. This process yields a fermentation-ready sucrose stream, rather than a mixture of sugars, allowing simple, low-cost downstream processing.

“Unlike typical algae cultivation approaches,” said Kasdin, “we grow our high-sugar-producing cyanobacteria on a composite fabric substrate enclosed in our photobioreactor, which optimizes the organisms’ access to light and surrounds them with their carbon-dioxide feedstock. Water and nutrients are trickled into the photobioreactor, creating a controlled cultivation environment.”

Proterro claims that their unique sugar-making process removes the price volatility that comes with crop-based feedstocks and eliminates the complex and costly steps required to produce cellulosic sugars derived from biomass. The result is an economically stable, fermentation-ready sugar feedstock for the scalable, affordable production of a variety of commercial scale fuels and chemicals through standard industrial fermentation methods.

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