Sustainable Project Sekisui, INCJ Complete ‘Waste-to-Ethanol’ Demo Plant Construction in Japan

Source: Press release

Sekisui Chemical Co., INCJ, and Sekisui Bio Refinery Co. have completed the construction of a ‘waste-to-ethanol’ demo plant in Iwate, Japan which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of a technology which has the potential to convert ‘industrial waste into ethanol’ on a large scale.

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The demonstration plant is approximately 1/10th the size of a commercial plant, and ethanol will be produced from municipal waste sourced from Kuji City, which will total approximately 20 tons per day.
The demonstration plant is approximately 1/10th the size of a commercial plant, and ethanol will be produced from municipal waste sourced from Kuji City, which will total approximately 20 tons per day.
(Source: Sekisui Chemical)

Osaka/Japan – Sekisui Chemical Co., INCJ, and Sekisui Bio Refinery Co. (SBR) have completed the construction of a demonstration plant in Kuji City, Iwate, Japan with the aim of demonstrating the viability of the technology that converts municipal/industrial waste into ethanol on a commercial scale. This technology uses a microbial catalyst and gas fermentation process (BR ethanol technology) that was jointly developed by Sekisui Chemical and Lanza Tech.

This first of its kind demonstration plant was constructed with investments from SBR, a joint venture between Sekisui Chemical and INJC, a private-public fund overseen by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). It has also received funding from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

The goal of the SBR Kuji demonstration plant is to assess the technological and commercial viability of BR ethanol technology from municipal/industrial waste. The parties will use this facility to validate the technology and commerciality of scaling up, system optimization, stable operations, and business feasibility.

This demonstration plant is approximately 1/10th the size of a commercial plant, and ethanol will be produced from municipal waste sourced from Kuji City, which will total approximately 20 tons per day. In addition to proving the technical feasibility of this technology, the demonstration plant aims to show the long-term benefits of resource recycling. It will be open to tours by municipalities, waste management companies, and other interested stakeholders to spread awareness of the new technology and its products.

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To achieve the “new social system for resource recycling,” Sekisui Chemical and SBR are aiming to establish a new recycling system to provide new life to municipal/industrial waste by creating fossil-free ethanol that can be used in everyday products.

Sekisui Chemical is collaborating with Sumitomo Chemical Company to build a new closed-loop system in which ethanol is converted into ethylene and then into plastic (polyolefin). The aim is to create a new plastic resource recycling system in which plastic consumer goods are used, disposed of and then returned to the BR plant so that they can be reused in the manufacturing process repeatedly. This will require collaboration by a wide range of participants (corporations, local municipalities, consumers, public authorities etc.). The aim is to extensively promote co-creation for a sustainable, post pollution society.

The BR technology will produce synthetic alcohol (JAAS standard, Japan Alcohol Association). Although this ethanol is not edible, it can be used to create a myriad of end products. For example, the ethanol could be converted into ethylene and then kerosene, for use as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

In parallel with testing at the demonstration plant, SBR and Sekisui Chemical will collaborate with local municipalities and private companies (waste disposal companies etc.) on discussions regarding waste material supply as well as with ethanol users (resource recycling companies etc.). The first commercial-scale facility is targeted to begin production in 2025.

An inauguration ceremony was held on April 8, 2022 to commemorate the completion of construction of the Kuji demonstration plant. Regional representatives such as Joji Endo, the Mayor of Kuji City, and several regional council members attended the ceremony. Participants from Sekisui Chemical included President and Representative Director Keita Kato and Business Strategy Department head, Futoshi Kamiwaki. Participants from INCJ included Chairman and CEO Toshiyuki Shiga and others. Participants from Lanza Tech included CEO Jennifer Holmgren.

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