General Motors and Coskata today announced that a pilot plant for cellulosic ethanol will be built in Madison, Pennsylvania. The plant will located adjacent to the Westinghouse Plasma Center in Madison. The plasma torches that Coskata will be using for their gasification process are based on technology that was developed by GM and Westinghouse in the early eighties. At that time the companies developed a plasma furnace used to melt raw materials for cast iron production at GM foundries. The first production application was at a GM foundry in Defiance OH in 1989.

Coskata is using the same plasma torch technology to heat biomass materials to over 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is sufficient to convert almost any organic matter into a gas that is an intermediate ingredient in Coskata's process for producing cellulosic ethanol. Coskata's pilot plant will use Westinghouse Marc-3 plasma torches while the commercial scale plant will use larger Marc-11 torches. The pilot plant will be in operation in Q1 2009 with the first commercial plant following in 2011.

[Source: General Motors]

GM Role in Coskata's Cellulosic Ethanol Has Deep Roots

Pilot Plant Gasification Technology Traces to GM Ohio Foundry

MADISON, Pa. – General Motors Corp.'s role in helping Coskata Inc. bring its next-generation cellulosic ethanol to market traces back a quarter of a century to technology developed for a GM iron foundry in northwest Ohio.

Coskata announced Friday that its pilot plant will be located at the Westinghouse Plasma Center in Madison, the current site of a pilot-plant gasifier.

Gasification is the first step in Coskata's process to make ethanol out of practically any renewable source. Plasma torches are used to super heat source material, such as agricultural and municipal solid waste, to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which creates a synthesis gas comprised of carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

The gas is cooled to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and then is consumed by Coskata's patented microorganisms, which excrete ethanol and some water.

In 1983, the GM Central Foundry Division collaborated with Westinghouse Electric Corp., later known as Westinghouse Plasma Corp., and others to develop a high-volume plasma torch furnace, called a plasma arc cupola, that could more flexibly produce molten iron used to make automotive engine blocks, crankshafts and brake components.

GM's first application of plasma torch technology was in 1989 at its foundry in Defiance, Ohio, where it is still used today.

"Who knew this process would be used more than 20 years later to make cellulosic ethanol?" said Chris Desautels, Defiance Facilities Engineering Manager. "Coskata's process could dramatically change the biofuels landscape in the next five to 10 years and it has some of its roots right here in Defiance."

At its commercial scale plants, Coskata intends to use WPC Marc-11 plasma torches, which have been proven in metallurgical and waste-to-energy commercial applications throughout the world. The Marc-11 torches have more than 500,000 hours of operation in industrial settings, including the GM Defiance foundry.

A smaller version, the Marc-3, will be used in Coskata's Madison facility. A WPC Marc-3 has been used in Japan to gasify municipal solid waste for more than five years.

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