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Originally published May 1 2007

Citrus peel waste may be used to generate earth-friendly fuel

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

Companies in Florida are hoping to turn millions of tons of citrus peel waste into a source for cost-efficient, local biofuel. The nearly 5 million tons of citrus waste produced in the state annually could be converted into as much as 60 million gallons of ethanol, possibly enough to meet central Florida's demand for fuel additives.

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What you need to know - Conventional View

• Companies such as Citrus Energy LLC and Southeast Biofuels are planning to build refineries at or near citrus processing facilities which will convert citrus peel waste into ethanol.

• Citrus waste is a combination of peel, membrane and seeds produced as a byproduct of juice manufacture. It is high in pectin, cellulose and soluble sugars that can be fermented into ethanol.

• This waste is available for free, and transportation costs would be kept low by an emphasis on local production. In contrast, corn currently costs more than four dollars a bushel.

• Currently, citrus waste is dried into pellets that are fed to cattle, and harsh chemicals are produced as a byproduct.

• When the citrus is processed into ethanol, it produces some useful byproducts including limonene, which is used in commercial cleaning products. However, the residue from the fermentation process must still be dried and is currently being sold as cattle feed.

• Quote: "I think what you're going to see over the next fifteen years is wood plants in Georgia and Alabama; citrus plants in Florida; and corn plants in the Midwest." - Tom Endres, senior vice-president of operations at Xethanol Corporation

Bottom line

• The waste from orange juice processing may be converted into enough ethanol to meet central Florida's demand for fuel additives.

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