INEOS Bio and its joint venture partner, New Planet Energy, have announced receiving a conditional commitment for a $75-million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program. Funds will be used for the construction of the first INEOS BioEnergy Center near Vero Beach, FL. The USDA 9003 program provides guaranteed loans for the development and construction of commercial-scale bio-refineries or for the retrofitting of existing facilities using eligible technology for the development of advanced biofuels.

According to INEOS, the BioEnergy Center will produce eight million gallons of advanced biofuel per year and six megawatts (gross) of renewable power from biomass including yard, vegetative and wood wastes and municipal solid waste. Site preparation and construction are underway at the BioEnergy Center, which has created 55 new jobs to date.

The BioEnergy Center, slated to begin production in 2012, is anticipated to provide 175 jobs during construction and 50 full-time jobs once the facility is completed. The project aims to help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, spur the creation of the domestic bio-refining industry and provide new clean tech jobs throughout the country.

The heart of the INEOS Bio technology is a patented anaerobic fermentation step, through which naturally occurring bacteria convert gases derived directly from biomass into ethanol. Unlike other technologies that rely on one primary source of feedstock, the INEOS Bio process can produce ethanol and renewable energy from numerous feedstocks, including construction waste, municipal solid waste and forestry and agricultural waste, while breaking the link between food crops and ethanol production. This flexibility allows facilities, like the Florida BioEnergy Center, to be built anywhere in the world, wherever there is biomass waste, providing jobs and locally sourced renewable energy for urban and rural communities.

Producing ethanol (or biodiesel) from feedstocks other than the edible plant and animal oils used to make biodiesel, or the sugars and starches like corn and sugar cane used to make ethanol eliminates the problem of taking food from the fork to the fuel tank. Although the resulting renewable fuels deliver substantial benefits in terms of relatively easy production, tailpipe emissions reductions, and reductions in carbon dioxide, they are still less energy dense and less pure than refined fossil fuels. That is one reason why blending relatively small amounts of biodiesel and ethanol with diesel and gasoline, respectively, is still the norm today.

According to INEOS, their technology platform “will be extended in due course to manufacture advanced fuels and valuable chemical intermediates from a wider range of low-cost carbon materials.”

Advanced biofuels (more technically referred to as “advanced biohydrocarbon fuels”) are the new darlings of the biofuels business for the potential benefits they offer, if only they can get into large-scale production.

The big advantage of these new biofuels, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, is they are essentially equivalent in terms of energy content and molecular structure to conventional hydrocarbon fuels like diesel and gasoline, making them what the industry calls a true “drop-in” fuel.

This means they can be used without significant modifications to the existing distribution infrastructure or to diesel- or gasoline-powered vehicles, and their production may even be tied into existing petroleum refineries, reducing the start-up burden and related impacts.