DOE Invests $385 Million in Six Cellulosic Ethanol Projects
February 28, 2007
DOE announced on February 28th that it will invest up to $385 million in six biorefineries over the next four years. Once up and running, the biorefineries—located in California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, and Kansas—are expected to produce more than 130 million gallons per year (mgy) of cellulosic ethanol. Combined with the industry cost share, more than $1.2 billion will be invested in the new biorefineries. The six projects support President Bush's Twenty in Ten Initiative, which aims to increase the use of alternative fuels to 35 billion gallons per year by 2017. See the DOE press release.
Cellulosic ethanol uses non-food plant materials such as switchgrass, wood chips, and sawdust to produce alternative fuel. While the refining process for cellulosic ethanol is more complex than that of corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol yields a greater net energy benefit and results in much lower greenhouse gas emissions. Of the six selected companies, four of them—BlueFire Ethanol, Inc., Broin Companies, Iogen Biorefinery Partners, and Abengoa Bioenergy—aim to employ processes that free the sugars from the biomass and then ferment them into alcohol. The two remaining companies plan to first gasify the biomass into a "synthesis gas." Range Fuels intends to convert the synthesis gas into ethanol using a catalytic process, while ALICO, Inc. will employ a unique process that feeds the synthesis gas into a fermenter to produce ethanol. ALICO's process was developed by Bioengineering Resources, Inc. (BRI). See the process details on the BRI Web site.
The southern California plant proposed by BlueFire Ethanol will be built on an existing landfill and use sorted green waste and wood waste to produce 19 mgy of ethanol. In LaBelle, Florida, ALICO proposes to build a 13.9 mgy ethanol facility that will draw on vegetative, yard, and wood wastes. In Emmetsburg, Iowa, Broin plans to expand its corn ethanol plant to produce 125 mgy of ethanol, a quarter of which will be cellulosic ethanol produced from corn fiber, cobs, and stalks. In Shelley, Idaho, Iogen will build a plant that will convert wheat straw, barley straw, corn stover, switchgrass, and rice straw into 18 mgy of ethanol. Range Fuels' proposed Soperton, Georgia, plant will produce 40 mgy of ethanol using wood residues and wood-based energy crops. And in Kansas, Abengoa Bioenergy will build a 11.4 mgy ethanol plant that will draw on corn stover, wheat straw, milo stubble, switchgrass, and other feedstocks. See the press releases from ALICO, Broin, Range Fuels, and Abengoa Bioenergy.