Qteros, a venture-backed biofuel company based in Massachusetts, has entered into a joint development project with Applied CleanTech (ACT), a commodities recycling company based in Israel, to use ACT’s Recyllose™-based feedstock, produced from municipal wastewater solids, for efficient and low-cost ethanol production. ACT’s Sewage Recycling System (SRS), an innovative solution for recycling wastewater solids, produces alternative energy sources for the production of electricity or ethanol, while reducing sludge formation and lowering wastewater treatment plant costs and increasing plant capacity.
The companies said they are the first to demonstrate commercial success in creating ethanol from the cellulose in municipal and agricultural liquid waste, and to offer a process that all municipalities can use to help reduce expenses.
QTeros' and ACT's research has been supported in part by a grant from the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation. The BIRD Foundation funds joint efforts between Israel and the United States, and their financial support resulted in the collaboration between Qteros and ACT.QTeros raised raised $25 million in a Series B financing in October 2008. Investors in the company include BP, Venrock, Battery Ventures, Valero, and Soros Fund Management.
“Our customer is every municipality that has a wastewater treatment plant,” said Jeff Hausthor, Qteros co-founder and senior project manager. “It will provide a value-added product for municipal wastewater plants, thereby making treatment plants much less expensive to run and helping local governments throughout the world with their constrained budgets.”
Israel Biran, ACT’s CEO, added, “It also helps answer the question of what municipalities can do with their sewage sludge, a major challenge now facing every wastewater treatment plant operator.”
ACT has spent six years developing its integrated sewage recycling solution. According to ACT, its Recyllose™-based feedstock offers high cellulose content and low moisture, facilitating more efficient ethanol production. The SRS is already in commercial use, with facilities in Israel and the United States currently making Recyllose™-based products from sewage sludge and other cellulose-rich waste while reducing sludge output and wastewater treatment plant costs.
By using ACT’s proprietary feedstock, Hausthor said Qteros and ACT’s researchers have found that an ethanol production plant can produce 120–135 gallons of ethanol per ton of Recyllose™.
Since Recyllose™ is low in lignin (a major component of plant cell walls that is difficult to degrade), and lignin can be inhibitory to efficient conversion to ethanol, Hausthor said the material improves cellulosic plant operational efficiency 20 percent over higher lignin content feedstocks.
Qteros’ CEO William Frey said that with previous technologies, a cellulosic ethanol plant would have to produce roughly 20-30 million gallons per year (MGY) in order to be profitable. With the proposed Qteros-ACT process, Frey said, production with these economics could be viable at a smaller scale.
ACT President Dr. Refael Aharon said that a wastewater plant that handles 150 million gallons a day (serving a population of about 2 million people) can be sufficient to supply a smaller-scale ethanol plant with cellulose.