Tennessee Biofuels Initiative on track to build biorefinery

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 02, 2008
Web exclusive posted June 30, 2008 at 11:57 a.m. CST

The Tennessee Biofuels Initiative has been fielding phone calls last week as a result of an erroneous news story reporting one of the partners had bowed out of the project.

The University of Tennessee's Executive Vice President David Milhorn reported to the university's Board of Trustees on June 20 that the initiative remains on track to construct and open a biorefinery in 2010 at the Niles Ferry Industrial Park in Vonore, Tenn.

The university continues to finalize arrangements with its strategic partners, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Mascoma Corp. "Mascoma remains committed to the Vonore, Tenn., project," the company said in a statement issued after the erroneous report. Mascoma reported it is currently in discussions with both the University of Tennessee and the U.S. DOE to finalize the collaboration details. "Mascoma remains involved in the definition and execution of this project, and is contributing both technology and financing, including a $26 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for the DOE Small-Scale Biorefinery Projects grant program," the statement said.

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation recently formed Genera Energy LLC to construct and operate the cellulosic ethanol biorefinery. Genera Energy will also help transform the technological developments made by researchers into products for the marketplace. This spring the university contracted with 16 farmers to grow 700 acres of switchgrass for the project. It anticipates contracting an additional 6,000 to 8,000 acres by the time the plant becomes operational in 2010.