U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Bioenergy Technologies Office
Three New Cellulosic Biorefineries to Receive $86 Million from DOE
April 23, 2008
DOE announced on April 18 that it will invest $86 million over the next
4 years in three new cellulosic ethanol biorefineries, to be built by
Ecofin, LLC; Mascoma; and RSE Pulp & Chemical, LLC. The small-scale
biorefineries will produce ethanol from non-edible cellulosic biomass
sources, such as corncobs, wood chips, and switchgrass. Cellulosic
biomass has three main components: strong crystalline strands of
cellulose, which are protected by hemicellulose, a complex
carbohydrate, and the glue-like lignin.
Ecofin, LLC plans to build a biorefinery in Washington County,
Kentucky, which will use a novel fermentation process to convert
corncobs into more than 1 million gallons of ethanol per year, as well
as other products. Mascoma proposes to build a biorefinery in Vonore,
Tennessee, that will convert switchgrass and wood chips into 2 million
gallons of ethanol per year using a biochemical process that employs
ethanol-producing bacteria. The Mascoma facility will burn the lignin
from the biomass to provide heat for the process. And RSE Pulp &
Chemical, LLC, a subsidiary of Red Shield Environmental, LLC, plans to
build a biorefinery at its pulp and paper mill in Old Town, Maine.
Hemicellulose extracted from the wood pulp will be used to produce
2.2 million gallons of ethanol per year.
Mascoma plans to begin operating its Tennessee facility in 2009, while
the other two facilities are expected to start operating in 2010. Such
small-scale biorefineries are meant to test novel conversion
technologies, providing the information needed to scale up the process
to a commercial-scale biorefinery, which would typically produce
20-30 million gallons of ethanol per year. The proposed biorefineries
in Maine and Kentucky will each receive up to $30 million dollars in
DOE funding, while the Tennessee facility will receive up to
$26 million. See the DOE press release and the Mascoma Web site.