Abengoa

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Abengoa S.A.
Type Sociedad Anónima
Traded as NASDAQABGB
Industry Technology, engineering
Founded 1941
Headquarters Seville, Spain
Key people Felipe Benjumea Llorente (Chairman), Manuel Sánchez Ortega (CEO)
Products Solar energy and bioenergy devices, IT, water and waste treatment, construction of telecom networks, power stations, infrastructure
Revenue Increase €7.783 billion (2012)1
Operating income Decrease €774.6 million (2012)1
Profit Decrease €125 million (2012)1
Total assets Increase €20.545 billion (end 2012)1
Total equity Increase €1.832 billion (end 2012)1
Employees Increase 26,402 (end 2012)1
Website abengoa.com

Abengoa, S.A. (Spanish pronunciation: [aβeŋˈɡoa]) is a Spanish multinational corporation, which includes companies in the domains of energy, telecommunications, transportation, and the environment. The company was founded in 1941 by Javier Benjumea Puigcerver and José Manuel Abaurre Fernández-Pasalagua,2 and is based in Seville, Spain. It is a global biotechnology company specializing in the development of new technologies in producing biofuels and biochemicals and promoting sustainability of raw materials.

Abengoa invests in research in sustainable technology, and implements these technologies in Spain as well as exporting them globally. These technologies include concentrated solar power, second generation biofuels, and desalination.

In 2012, Abengoa and subsidiaries employed approximately 26,500 people, operating in more than 80 countries.1

Subsidiaries

Befesa

Befesa is an Abengoa subsidiary specialising in the integral management of industrial wastes and the generation and management of water.

Abengoa Solar

Abengoa began its involvement in the development of solar technologies in 1984 with the construction of the Solar Almeria Platform in Spain.

In 2008, the US Department of Energy awarded Abengoa Solar two research and development projects in the field of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) that total over $14 million. The goal of the R&D program is to develop CSP technologies that are competitive with conventional energy sources (grid parity) by 2015.3

On July 3, 2010, US President Barack Obama announced that the US Department of Energy conditionally committed to offering a $1.45 billion loan guarantee to support construction by Abengoa Solar of the Solana Generating Station, in Maricopa County, Arizona.4 It is set to begin operation in 2013. (Operational Oct 2013)

The Mojave Solar Project in the Mojave desert in California is currently under construction and is expected to come on-line in 2014.5

Abengoa Bioenergy

Abengoa Bioenergy is a global biotechnology company specializing in the development of new technologies in producing biofuels and biochemicals and promoting sustainability of raw materials.

AB is currently constructing a biomass-to-ethanol facility in Hugoton, Kansas that will produce second generation biofuels. This refinery is forecast to be on-line and in full production by the end of 2013 or early 2014. The facility will be operated by Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, a company of Abengoa Bioenergy.6

Abengoa Bioenergy also has a joint venture biofuel plant with Ebro Puleva.7

Feedstocks

The feedstock comprises woody and non-woody cellulosic biomass provided by plant biomass, agricultural wastes, forestry residues, and sugar processing residues. Currently the most important grain cereal for production of bioethanol in Abengoa Bioenergy's plants are wheat, barley, corn and sorghum. In Abengoa Bioenergy Brazil, the company grows sugarcane while maintaining sustainable rural development methods, biodiversity, and regional economic growth. Other plants produce second-generation bioethanol from a combination of corn stover, wheat straw, oat straw, barley straw, hardwood, switchgrass. Converting starch from cereals through fermentation creates a high protein co-product that is a source of vegetable protein, energy, fiber and vitamins, and is used to produce cattle feed.8

Pretreatment

Lignocellulosic raw material is first milled and cleaned before pre-treatment. Pre-treatment consists of contacting the cellulosic biomass feedstock with an acidic liquid medium to form an acid-impregnated biomass feedstock, then contacting the feedstock with H2O at elevated temperature and pressure to solubilize hemicellulose resulting in a steam treated feedstock. The biomass is then subjected to a depressurization zone to further solubilize hemicellulose and producing a volatilized fraction. Temperature and pressure within the depressurization zone is controlled by releasing a portion of the volatilized fraction.9

Acid Impregnation

Acid impregnation prepares the feedstock for enzymatic hydrolysis to produce fermentable sugars by increasing bioavailability of feedstock. Feedstock is introduced to an acid impregnation vessel consisting of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, sulfurous acid, sulfur dioxide, nitric acid, and combinations thereof.9 The acidic liquid medium contains an acid concentration of less than 5 wt %.9 Acid impregnation involves soaking or spraying the liquid medium to the feedstock. Either method involves agitation or mixing for 1–13 minutes to promote dispersion of the acid throughout the feedstock. Impregnation of feedstock results in degradation of fibers as the hold time and temperature reach certain limits.

Soaking

When soaking, the entire mass of feedstock is submerged in acidic liquid medium to promote bulk movement of the feedstock to provide dynamic and continuous contact of the feedstock and acidic liquid medium. To promote dynamic physical contact and dispersion of the acidic liquid medium to feedstock, the feedstock/acidic liquid medium slurry is agitated. Soaked biomass feedstock is dewatered to reduce its moisture content.

Spraying

Less acidic liquid medium is used so material costs are reduced, and avoids the need for dewatering. The feedstock is agitated to disperse the acid throughout the feedstock.

Wetting agent

Acidic liquid medium may include a surfactant to promote dispersion of acid throughout the resulting acid-impregnated biomass slurry by reducing surface tension of the liquid medium. Suitable surfactants are bio-degradable, non-toxic, and are commercially available. Nonionic surfactants are preferred as their performance is unaffected by the presence of an acidic liquid medium, such as alcohols.

Heating during acid impregnation is also employed to promote dispersion of acid throughout the resulting acid impregnated biomass slurry. The biomass feedstock/dilute acid mixture is heated to temperatures of at least 10-40C.9 However, heating at this stage does not significantly solubilize hemicellulose component. Instead its used to minimize and avoid solubilization of hemicellulose. The feedstock is heated in a low moisture environment of a relative humidity of less than 80-100% (specifically, less than 50-70 wt %).9 Moisture inhibits the dispersion of acid throughout the feedstock, or results in an uneven acid dispersion. Low moisture content of acid-impregnated feedstock reduces the energy required during subsequent heating.

Acid impregnated feedstock results in a slurry with biomass solids dispersed throughout the acidic liquid medium with total solids of at least 25 wt% (0.35 - 0.65 g solids per g wet mixture). Temperature of the acid-impregnated biomass becomes the same as the acidic liquid medium (20-95C). Additionally the pH of the acid-impregnated biomass becomes less than 4. Total glucan content of acid-impregnated feedstock is about 25-50%.9

Steam Treatment (Steam Explosion)

After acid-impregnation, the feedstock is subjected to elevated temperature and pressure in the presence of H2O, then discharged to an environment of reduced pressure to break down the cellulose-hemicellulose-lignin complex. Steam treatment dissociates cellulose from hemicellulose and lignin for enzymatic hydrolysis to produce fermentable sugars. Steam is introduced at a pressure of at least 75-150 psig. The acid-impregnated feedstock and H2O are introduced into the same vessel under a pressure of about 75-250 psig.9

Temperature of steam is about 160-220C. Uniform moisture from the water vapor of steam treatment, promotes uniform temperature fo the feedstock. To promote even temperature distribution throughout the vessel, the total solids content of the feedstock is maintained from about 30-70 wt % by direct steam injection as higher moisture feedstocks hinders steam penetration and heat transfer throughout the feedstock.9 If necessary, feedstock may be dewatered by removing excess acidic liquid medium using a mechanical solid/liquid separation device such as a dewatering screw press.

The abrupt change in pressure by withdrawing or removing the pretreated feedstock to a vessel of reduced pressure (above atmospheric pressure) degrades the lignin-hemicellulose-cellulose complex. To maintain adequate and rapid depressurization for effective degradation of fiber structures, the pressure at the outlet differs by less than 50-100 psig.9

Steam treatment reduces the size of particulate solids of the acid-impregnated feedstock to provide an increase in exposed surface area of cellulose and/or hemicellulose for enzymatic hydrolysis.

Enzyme Supplier

Dyadic International is a global biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development, manufacturing, and sale of enzyme and protein products for bioenergy, biochemical, biopharmaceutical and industrial enzyme industries. Dyadic utilizes its patented C1 fungus to develop and manufacture low cost proteins and enzymes for diverse market opportunities. Dyadic actively pursues licensing arrangements and other commercial opportunities to leverage the value of their technologies by providing its partners with the benefits of manufacturing and/or utilizing the enzymes which these technologies help produce.10

Dyadic's license agreement with Abengoa Bioenergy gives them the right to use Dyadic's C1 platform technology to develop, manufacture and sell enzymes for use in second generation biorefining processes to convert biomass into sugars for the production of fuels.10

C1 is based on the Myceliopthora thermophila fungal expression system for gene discovery, expression, and production of enzymes and other proteins.11 Dyadic scientists have developed strains of this fungal microorganism to go from gene discovery to commercial manufacturing using the same host organism. It's integrated and patented C1 platform eliminates many of the bottlenecks of protein discovery, development, scale-up and commercialization.11 Thus, enabling new product introduction with less time, cost and risk.

DNA from various sources including individual organisms, environmental samples, or collections of genes can be fragmented and cloned into Dyadic's specialized C1 expression vectors. The resulting cultures are distributed into cultures and are allowed to grow to create a gene expression library. The collection can be further used to create replicates, or stored away for later use. The target protein are screened against the gene library. To make a commercially viable product, Dyadic researchers use the "C1 Express" Hyperproducing Protein Expression System to increase the expression level of the gene of interest. Because the same C1 organism is used for gene discovery and expression, the probability of successfully increasing the level of protein expression is very high.

Dyadic currently sells more than 55 enzyme products to more than 150 industrial customers in approximately 50 countries for a broad range of industries including biofuels, bio-based chemicals, biopharmaceuticals, animal health and nutrition, pulp and paper, textiles, food and beverage, and nutraceuticals.11

Pilot Plants and Commercialization

York Pilot Plant (Nebraska, US)

Abengoa's biomass pilot plant opened in 2008 in York, Nebraska. This $35 million biomass facility will exclusively research and develop ethanol production processes using enzymatic hydrolysis and lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock. The York facility will will research and test proprietary technology for its commercial-scale facilities. The plant currently operates at 100% of its capacity and continues to demonstrate excellent efficiency and consistent operation. The York pilot plant uses an annual consumption of 520,000 tons of corn stover to produce 56 Mgal(210 ML) of bioethanol per year, through continuous batch cooking and fermenting process.12

BCyL Demonstration Plant (Salamanca, Spain)

In 2009, the biomass plant Biocarburantes Castilla y León (BCyL) started operation as the first demonstration plant to process biomass-to-ethanol on a commercial scale. The plant produces 1.3 Mgal/year using wheat and barley straw biomass.13

Hugoton Commercial Hybrid Biomass Plant (Kansas, US)

The construction of this commercial scale biorefinery facility by Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas (ABBK) will allow them to use their proprietary technology that they've been developing over the last 10 years to produce cost-effective and renewable liquid fuel from plantfiber or cellulosic biomass. The plant will produce 25 Mgal/year from 350, 000 tons of biomass/year. The residues of the biorefinery process will be combusted with 300 tons/day of fry, raw biomass material to produce 18 megawatts of electricity to power the entire facility to make it energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The plant is expected to be in full production by the end of 2013 or early 2014.14

Abeinsa (Engineering and Construction)

Abeinsa is the branch of Abengoa responsible for engineering and construction. This company is consolidated Abener Engineering and Construction Services, Teyma, and Abacus Project Management.

Competitors

Employees working conditions and bad image

In 2013 the newspaper Diagonal denounced the exploitation suffered by their workers forced relocation and expatriation, abusive workdays (employees have 11 hours a day) and inability to syndicate. In addition, workers are controlled by prohibiting the entry of outside food because "the card with which they sign in and out is the same as are required to use to pay for food and buy products from vending machines in facilities.15

In 2014 another newspaper, in this case, The Economist, strengthens the claim of exploitation and degrading working conditions in the company, and the fact that the Andalusian company is "testing a new software to control employees,if worker does not move the mouse for 15 minutes, he has to justify the reason for it. "This article also claims that employees "are required to work until 20:00 lengthening the day they are hired by two hours, risking of being fired otherwise.16

See also

References

External links








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