ZeaChem begins commercial-grade production at Oregon cellulosic biorefinery

ZeaChem has produced commercial-grade cellulosic chemicals and ethanol at its 250,000 gal/year biorefinery in Boardman, Oregon, the company said late Tuesday.

Among the first operational cellulosic biorefineries in the world, this demonstration facility showcases the scalability of ZeaChem’s biorefining process and serves as a key stepping stone toward large-scale commercial production.

“ZeaChem is developing the first truly-integrated biorefineries for the production of a broad portfolio of economical and sustainable biofuels and bio-based chemicals,” said Jim Imbler, CEO of ZeaChem.

“The demonstration plant is fully integrated and operating as we ramp up to full capacity. The start of cellulosic production is a significant milestone for ZeaChem as we demonstrate our highly-efficient biorefining technology, develop the first commercial biorefinery project, and expand global development opportunities.”


Similar to a petrochemical refinery that makes multiple fuels and chemicals, ZeaChem’s demonstration facility is employing its C2 (two-carbon atom) platform to produce cellulose-based ethanol and intermediate chemicals such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate, according to the company. The commercial market potential for all C2 products is $485 billion.

Through relatively simple processing adjustments, the ZeaChem platform technology can create C3 chemicals (three-carbon structure) including propionic acid, ethyl propionate, propanol and propylene. Together, ZeaChem’s C2 and C3 products address a collection of end markets of more $1 trillion.

Technology and Feedstock

Unlike conventional biorefineries, ZeaChem says it can convert nearly any non-food biomass into fuels and chemicals. This provides ZeaChem with the opportunity to source feedstock locally and inexpensively. The demonstration facility will receive its feedstock from nearby-GreenWood Resources’ tree farms and other local agricultural residue processors.


As a supplier of competitively-priced products with significant environmental benefits, ZeaChem has formed strategic partnerships with companies that include GreenWood Resources, Valero and Chrysler.

"Ethanol that is produced from non-food sources at an efficiency rate that ultimately makes it competitive with oil makes business sense," said Jim Gillingham, senior vice president of alternative fuels and project development at Valero. 

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