Confidential – Cellulosic Ethanol Plant



This confidential client was a rapidly growing cellulosic ethanol company who had just received a $14.8 million grant from the State of New York for the establishment of their demonstration plant.


The client initially contracted SPEC to provide process engineering expertise for the fermentation section of a pilot scale R&D line. Within a few weeks of the two teams working together, SPEC’s assignment was expanded to include the full pilot line design, procurement, and delivery of skid based plant modules. The client’s extremely aggressive schedule targets precluded the purchase of new equipment. Therefore, SPEC identified and purchased used tanks, agitators, an autoclave and filter press. After putting all of the long lead equipment on order, SPEC developed P&ID’s for the full process, added in a DCS, engineered control panels, and bought all the instruments.


With the process skids well underway, the scope was further expanded with SPEC taking on the complete construction responsibilities for installing the skids, supplying all the needed utility systems and piping, as well as final check out, commissioning and start up. SPEC prequalified approximately 10 bidders resulting in three primary subcontract awards to union contractors whose work area included the client’s Albany, NY facility. During an intense 12 week period on site, a 30’ x 140’ concrete housekeeping pad was placed, 12 different utility pipe lines were installed in a vertical rack system, the base building electrical system was upgraded to 1600 amps, and all the process skids were landed, hooked up, tested, and commissioned.

Controls used included: Siemens PCS7 DCS, approximately 250 points of Profibus connected I/O and VFDs, and Endress & Hauser flowmeters.

SPEC supported the client throughout plant start-up and was integrally involved in control system start-up. The plant is now running at full capacity.

Project Highlights

Schedule – The compressed schedule was largely possible because SPEC had the majority of the process equipment shipped to one of our design/build team members, allowing us to directly supervise the skid fabrication, electrical instrumentation assembly, installation of control cabinets and execute a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) on the skids, local to us in Massachusetts. The onsite installation of utility systems for chilled water, compressed air, steam, and waste water was done in parallel and was expedited by the shop fabrication of 8000 LF of rack piping and related structural steel supports.

SPEC Process Engineering & Construction