Georgia and Michigan in Race to Convert Wood to Ethanol
July 25, 2007
Efforts are now underway to build the first commercial plant in the United States to convert wood into ethanol, and the race is on to see if that first plant will be located in Georgia or Michigan. Range Fuels, Inc. was awarded a permit by the State of Georgia in early July to build a plant that will gasify wood waste and then convert that "synthesis gas" into ethanol. The company plans to break ground this summer on the first phase of the plant, which will produce 20 million gallons of ethanol per year when it starts production in 2008. On July 19th, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm announced that Mascoma Corporation plans to build a commercial plant in that state that will convert wood chips and other non-food agricultural products into ethanol. The Mascoma process involves breaking down the biomass to free its sugars, and then fermenting the sugars into ethanol. No timeline has been announced for Mascoma's proposed plant, but Governor Granholm wants the facility to be the first commercial-scale wood-to-ethanol plant in the country. See the press releases from Range Fuels and Governor Granholm, as well as the Mascoma Web site.
The world's first commercial wood-to-ethanol plant just started production in Osaka, Japan. Verenium Corporation is licensing fermentation technology developed at the University of Florida for use at the plant, which can produce 370,000 gallons of ethanol per year. Verenium also operates a pilot-scale plant in Louisiana and is building an adjacent demonstration-scale plant that will be designed to produce 1.4 million gallons of ethanol per year. Construction of that facility should be complete by year's end. See the Verenium press release.
While these projects are producing ethanol from wood waste, Citrus Energy LLC and FPL Energy, LLC plan to build a plant to convert citrus peels into ethanol. FPL Energy announced on July 19th that the two companies have agreed to build a commercial-scale ethanol facility on the grounds of a Florida citrus processor. The facility will produce four million gallons of ethanol per year. See the FLP Energy press release and the Citrus Energy Web site.