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Colombia sees boost in ethanol output

BOGOTA, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Colombia has given its diverse energy portfolio a major boost after finalizing plans for a new ethanol plant to be built by an Indian firm.

India's biofuels company Praj Industries said it won a $22 million Colombian contract for building the ethanol plant on the strength of advanced technology that minimizes energy and water consumption in the process of producing the fuel.

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Ethanol production is seeing a global boom as new technologies offer unprecedented efficiencies in ethanol production, which involves extensive electricity, water and biomass use. News of the contract came as Joule announced new innovations in ethanol production.

Praj Industries said it won the contract from Isolux Corsan of Spain, main contractors for the Bioenergy S.A. project in Colombia. Praj will supply the main process plant for ethanol production including the concentration of vinasse for use as liquid fertilizer.

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Bioenergy S.A., which is developing the 16,951 cubic-feet-a-day, sugar-to-ethanol project in the Los Llanos grasslands east of the Andes, is among major players leading agro-industrial development in the area.

Bioenergy is majority owned by Colombia's national oil company EcoPetrol.

Praj Industries Executive Chairman Pramod Chaudhari said it was the biggest order received by the company in Latin America. The company has commissioned five Greenfield plants in Colombia during the past decade.

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The plant will be based on Praj "cutting edge technology" that permits use of very low pressure vapors generated from the juice evaporation area enabling substantial saving of both water and energy.

Praj has offices in Houston and Guatemala apart from presence in South Africa, Europe and the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, Joule Unlimited Technologies announced the issuance of its first two U.S. patents covering its fundamental method for producing ethanol at volumes and efficiencies far surpassing biomass-dependent processes.

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The patents relate to methods for increasing ethanol production capability of a photosynthetic microorganism. Unlike competing technologies that utilize microorganisms to produce ethanol by fermenting sugars from cellulose or other biomass materials, Joule's platform microorganism is engineered to produce and secrete ethanol in a continuous process, converting more than 90 percent of the carbon dioxide it consumes directly to end product, with no reliance on biomass feedstocks.

"The market for ethanol is strong and growing internationally, and our patented technology affords Joule an incredible opportunity to meet growing demand at productivities well beyond biomass-based approaches," Joule President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Sims said.

"Rather than focus on incremental improvements along the supply chain, we have proven that a direct, continuous process from photons to fuel is the answer to highly efficient, cost-competitive production that can scale without today's feedstock constraints," Sims said.

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Joule is producing ethanol at pilot scale and has achieved nearly 50 percent of its ultimate productivity target in the lab, the company said.

Joule says it is advancing a production platform for its trademark Liquid Fuel from the Sun which is "expected to eclipse the scale, productivity and cost efficiency of any known alternative to fossil fuel today."

Its transformative Helioculture platform directly and continuously converts sunlight and waste CO2 to infrastructure-ready diesel, ethanol or commodity chemicals with no dependence on biomass feedstocks, downstream processing or precious natural resources.

The process can yield renewable fuels and chemicals in unprecedented volumes with a fraction of the land required by current methods, leapfrogging biomass-dependent approaches and eliminating the economic and environmental disadvantages of fossil fuels, Joule said.

Joule has headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

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