DOE funds three cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants

By Susanne Retka Schill | April 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted April 25, 2008 at 9:57 a.m. CST

Three small-scale cellulosic biorefineries in Maine, Tennessee and Kentucky received a total of $86 million in a second round of U.S. Department of Energy funding announced April 18 at the DOE conference, Biomass 2008: Funding Our Future, in Alexandria, Va.

Expected to be operational within four years, the small-scale biorefinery projects selected will produce liquid transportation fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, as well as bio-based chemicals and bio-based products used in industrial applications.

Mascoma Corp., based in Boston, Mass., received up to $26 million for its 5 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant which will be built in the Niles Ferry Industrial Park in Monroe County, Tenn., and utilize switchgrass as its feedstock. Mascoma is partnering with the University of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation and Genera Energy LLC which was created to implement the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative launched in 2007.

RSE Pulp and Chemical LLC, a subsidiary of Red Shield Environmental LLC, received up to $30 million for a wood cellulosic ethanol facility at an existing pulp mill in Old Town, Maine. The project uses a University of Maine proprietary process for pre-extracting hemicelluloses during the pulping process for fermentation into ethanol which has been proven on a laboratory and pilot scale. The DOE grant will help prove the viability of the process in a 2.2 MMgy demonstration plant. RSE Pulp and Chemical is part of a consortium consisting of 22 companies in the United States and Canada, whose participants and investors include the University of Maine at Orono and American Process Inc. at Atlanta, Ga., among others.

Ecofin LLC of Nicholasville, Ky., a subsidiary of Alltech Inc., received up to $30 million for a 1 MMgy demonstration plant to validate the commercial viability of a novel, solid-state enzyme process which could convert a wide range of lignocellulosic feedstocks to ethanol and other bio-based products. The project, which is expected to be operational in 2010, initially will use corncobs in the solid state fermentation process developed by Alltech. Other participants in the project include the University of Cincinnati and the University of Kentucky.

Earlier this year, the DOE selected four projects in the first round of funding. Those projects are in St. Joseph, Mo., Commerce City, Colo., Boardman, Ore., and Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. Combined, the seven selected small-scale biorefinery projects will receive up to $200 million in DOE funding and when combined with the industry cost-share will total more than $634 million invested over the next four years.