New York State to Pursue Cellulosic Ethanol and Energy Crops

May 24, 2006


Bird's-eye view of a pilot plant, which consists of eight large vessels interconnected with a complex network of piping.

The planned facility in New York should resemble Abengoa Bioenergy's pilot plant in Nebraska, which is testing cellulosic ethanol technologies.
Credit: Abengoa Bioenergy

The budget for the State of New York includes an innovative $20 million program for the development of a cellulosic ethanol pilot facility, Governor George Pataki announced early in May. The pilot facility will produce ethanol from cellulosic biomass sources such as willow, switchgrass, paper mill wastes, and agricultural and forestry residues. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets will administer the program, using a competitive process to make the award. Currently, Iogen Corporation in Canada is the only commercial producer of cellulosic ethanol, generating about a million gallons annually from wheat, oat, and barley straw in their demonstration facility. In addition, several U.S. ethanol plants are engaged in research and demonstration projects with DOE, and DOE operates a pilot plant at its National Renewable Energy Laboratory. See the governor's press release and the Renewable Fuels Association's Cellulosic Ethanol Web page.

The governor also announced that the state is supporting the development of dedicated crops for the biomass energy industry. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets awarded grants of $22,385 for Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University to try growing a 15-acre crop of switchgrass, and $60,000 for the State University of New York - College of Environmental Science and Forestry to develop its first commercial willow plantation. The willow plantation will be located near a wood-burning power plant in Lyonsdale, about 40 miles north of Utica, and managed in cooperation with the power plant. Lyonsdale Biomass is a 19-megawatt power plant that also supplies steam to a nearby paper plant, and is partly owned by Catalyst Renewables. The willow plantation could provide fuel for the power plant or for a cellulosic ethanol facility. In addition, the state awarded a grant of $60,000 to Northern Biodiesel in Ontario, about 10 miles east of Rochester, to develop a rapeseed market for the biodiesel industry. See the Department of Agriculture and Markets press release and the Catalyst Renewables Web site.

New York is also supporting the development of more traditional ethanol production facilities within the state. Governor Pataki announced on May 8th that the state will award nearly $6 million to Western New York Energy for its development of a dry mill ethanol plant in Shelby, about 30 miles northeast of Buffalo. When it begins production in January 2008, the $87.4 million facility is expected to convert 6 million bushels of corn into about 50 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol each year. See the governor's press release.