$80 Billion World Investment In Ethanol Plants In The Next 15 Years

World ethanol production will exceed 15 billion gallons in 2007.  U.S. will edge out Brazil as the leading producer.  Double-digit growth in production will continue for the foreseeable future.  To meet the ambitious goals of the Bush Administration, production in the U.S. would be 75 billion gallons/yr or five times the present world production. Other countries around the world will also be accelerating investments.  World investment in biofuels projects including ethanol could exceed $100 billion over the next 20 years says the McIlvaine Company in its online continuously updated, Biofuels World Markets and Projects.

Brazil will not only be expanding its own production of ethanol from sugar cane but helping other countries such as Ecuador do likewise.  Many other countries in Asia and Europe will also be pursuing this market.

Big companies will be providing the investment capital.  BP has allocated $500 million for research and development of biofuels.  DuPont will be putting its money into developing new breeds of corn which yield more ethanol.  Marathon, ADM, and many other large companies are also in the race.  ADM already produces one billion gal/yr and has ambitious expansion plans.

In the U.S more than 100 plants are now up and running.  Another 50 plants are in the planning or construction stages.  But it would take 1500 - 50 million gallons/yr plants to meet the Bush goals.  The capital investment would be $75 billion not including the difference between coal and gas firing.

Many plants will opt for coal firing.  A coal-fired plant with the latest pollution controls will cost $40 million or $20 million more than the gas-fired plant.  This will add another $30 billion to the potential investment.  Therefore total investment could exceed $100 billion.

Even if only half this target is achieved, it will mean a huge investment in process equipment, engineering and construction services, and controls.  When the investment in other countries is added to the U.S. investment, the total is $80 billion in the next 15 years (even using the more conservative predictions).

Suppliers of dryers, boilers, instrumentation, chemicals, material handling, scrubbers, incinerators, fabric filters, selective catalytic reduction units, pumps, valves, centrifuges, and mixers will have substantial opportunities.

It is likely that much of the production will eventually come from conversion of switch grass and crops other than corn.  This will increase the capital investment at the same time it decreases the agricultural costs.