Fill ‘er up, with oranges?

Florida awarded a biofuel company a $500,000 grant to help it build a $6 million plant that would produce ethanol from citrus peels.

Located in Florida’s citrus belt, Southeast Biofuels, a subsidiary of Xethanol, the plant would begin by using a 10,000 gallon fermenter and some 67,000 pounds of citrus peels per batch, and then upgrading capacity, in the production of ethanol. 

The ultimate goal of the project is to design and build a full-scale commercial plant capable of generating 8 million gallons of ethanol a year by using and disposing of 800,000 tons of citrus waste annually, the company said.  Only about 50% of a citrus fruit is used to produce juice and related products. Currently, most citrus waste is turned into low-value animal feed, the company said.

 The use of orange peals would be unique in the production of Ethanol as about 95% of all fuel ethanol made in the US and Canada is made from the starch contained in corn grain. The remaining fuel ethanol is produced from other grains, waste potatoes, cheese whey, and beverage wastes. Cheese whey and beverage wastes (from production upsets or out-of-date beverages) are examples of biomass materials that are primarily sugar. Grains and root crops like sweet potatoes are examples of starch-containing materials, according to the Arkansas Energy Office.

Experts said citrus waste could produce from 40 million to 60 million gallons of ethanol a year.The grant is part of Florida’s "Farm to Fuel" initiative which ultimately issued $25 million in renewable energy grants across the state.

According to an article on  OrlandoSentinal.com, the value of ethanol has fluctuated from $1.25 to more than $4 per gallon and can be made from orange peels for about $1.80 per gallon.

Kicked up demand for ethanol is significantly kicking up the price of popcorn - to the tune of over 40% since last year in some places across the country. And pasta, tortillas and other grain-based products are feeling the pinch too.

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