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Hughes Energy produces the first ever ever batch of bioethanol from municipal solid waste

In collaboration with Clariant AG, one of the world's leading specialty chemical companies, Hughes Energy and Wilson Bio-Chemical has developed a pioneering, technological pathway for the conversion of municipal solid waste (MSW) into bioethanol. As biomass-derived ethanol has been gaining attention as an alternative fuel source, the project consortium recognized that The Wilson System® and the Sunliquid® process provided a unique conversion pathway, first transforming municipal solid waste into biomass fiber and then subsequently into bioethanol.

MSW is an abundant resource in the U.S., diverting this waste from landfills can have an immediate effect on cutting climate warming methane emissions. Landfills were the third largest source of U.S. anthropogenic CH4 emissions in 2019, accounting for 114.5 million metric tons CO2-equivalent emissions, about 1.7% of total GHG emissions (US EPA, 2016). Our autoclave technology will provide an opportunity to divert MSW from landfill, cutting methane and CO2 emissions as well as provide a sustainable feedstock for the conversion to bioethanol.

This technological pathway for bioethanol production has the potential to maximize sustainability and promotes a circular economy by effectively recovering organics for their higher and best use and diversion from fossil fuels.

Clariant’s ready to use Sunliquid® technology provides carbon neutral biofuels and is a prime example for a circular economy solution. It is a fully integrated process, and the technology converts a broad range of lignocellulosic feedstock-woody biomass and now, Wilson Fibre from MSW has been added to the portfolio.

Clariant's Sunliquid® ReViVe process is a bolt-on for the conversion of Wilson Fibre® to generate second generation ethanol from the biogenic portion of MSW. After processing the MSW in the autoclave, the fibre output is separated and used in the Sunliquid® ReViVe process. Using Wilson Fibre® as an alternative feedstock for Clariant’s process, we are reducing the dependency of fossil fuels and supplying a sustainable, advanced low-carbon fuel for a net zero future.

Biofuels, such as bioethanol, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and can be compatible with the existing fleet of internal combustion engines. The carbon intensity of sunliquid® second generation ethanol achieves significantly higher CO2savings compared to fossil fuel and first-generation ethanol from corn. The demand of cellulosic ethanol in the US will be driven by continued regulatory framework, such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) which is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the US to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.

Hughes Energy are developing projects in US and plan to enter discussions with Clariant about technology rollout for the biofuels market and identify global opportunities.

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  Dane McSpedon, CEO of HEG  

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