U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced on February 28 that DOE will invest up to $385 million for six biorefinery projects over the next four years to help bring cellulosic ethanol to market and help revolutionize the industry. When fully operational, the biorefineries are expected to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. This production will help further President Bush’s goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012 and, along with increased automobile fuel efficiency, reduce America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years.
The solicitation, announced a year ago, was initially for three biorefineries and $160 million. However, in an effort to expedite the goals of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative and help achieve the goals of his Twenty in Ten Initiative, within authority of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), Section 932, Secretary Bodman raised the funding ceiling.
Combined with the industry cost share, more than $1.2 billion will be invested in these six biorefineries. Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels. Funding will begin this fiscal year and run through FY 2010.
The following six projects were selected:
- Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC of Chesterfield, Missouri, up to $76 million.
The proposed plant will be located in the state of Kansas. The plant will produce 11.4 million gallons of ethanol annually and enough energy to power the facility, with any excess energy being used to power the adjacent corn dry grind mill. The plant will use 700 tons per day of corn stover, wheat straw, milo stubble, switchgrass, and other feedstocks.
Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass investors/participants include: Abengoa Bioenergy R&D, Inc.; Abengoa Engineering and Construction, LLC; Antares Corp.; and Taylor Engineering.
- ALICO, Inc. of LaBelle, Florida, up to $33 million.
The proposed plant will be in LaBelle (Hendry County), Florida. The plant will produce 13.9 million gallons of ethanol a year and 6,255 kilowatts of electric power, as well as 8.8 tons of hydrogen and 50 tons of ammonia per day. For feedstock, the plant will use 770 tons per day of yard, wood, and vegetative wastes and eventually energycane.
Alico Inc. is a agricultural company that will use thermochemical technology, developed by Bioengineering Resources, Inc., that ferments synthetic gas.
ALICO, Inc. investors/participants include: Bioengineering Resources, Inc. of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Washington Group International of Boise, Idaho; GeoSyntec Consultants of Boca Raton, Florida; BG Katz Companies/JAKS, LLC of Parkland, Florida; and Emmaus Foundation, Inc.
- BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. of Irvine, California, up to $40 million.
The proposed plant will be in Southern California. The plant will be sited on an existing landfill and produce about 19 million gallons of ethanol a year. As feedstock, the plant would use 700 tons per day of sorted green waste and wood waste from landfills.
BlueFire Ethanol uses a process developed by Japanese company Arkenol that has developed proprietary improvements to a well known conversion technology known as concentrated acid hydrolysis including flash fermentation, membrane distillation and Chromatographic separation of the acid from the sugars.
BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. investors/participants include: Waste Management, Inc.; JGC Corporation; MECS Inc.; NAES; and PetroDiamond.
- Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, up to $80 million.
The plant is in Emmetsburg (Palo Alto County), Iowa, and after expansion, it will produce 125 million gallons of ethanol per year, of which roughly 25 percent will be cellulosic ethanol. For feedstock in the production of cellulosic ethanol, the plant expects to use 842 tons per day of corn fiber, cobs, and stalks.
Broin Companies participants include: E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Novozymes North America, Inc.; and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
- Iogen Biorefinery Partners, LLC, of Arlington, Virginia, up to $80 million.
The proposed plant will be built in Shelley, Idaho, near Idaho Falls, and will produce 18 million gallons of ethanol annually. The plant will use 700 tons per day of agricultural residues including wheat straw, barley straw, corn stover, switchgrass, and rice straw as feedstocks.,
Iogen Biorefinery Partners, LLC investors/partners include: Iogen Energy Corporation; Iogen Corporation; Goldman Sachs; and The Royal Dutch/Shell Group.
- Range Fuels (formerly Kergy Inc.) of Broomfield, Colorado, up to $76 million.
The proposed plant will be constructed in Soperton (Treutlen County), Georgia. The plant will produce about 40 million gallons of ethanol per year and 9 million gallons per year of methanol. As feedstock, the plant will use 1,200 tons per day of wood residues and wood based energy crops.
Range Fuels uses a two step process to convert biomass to a synthetic gas and from there, convert the gas to ethanol.
Range Fuels investors/participants include: Merrick and Company; PRAJ Industries Ltd.; Western Research Institute; Georgia Forestry Commission; Yeomans Wood and Timber; Truetlen County Development Authority; BioConversion Technology; Khosla Ventures; CH2MHill; Gillis Ag and Timber.
Finally! It seems like a long time since the original announcement that DOE would be funding three cellulosic ethanol projects. In terms of government projects it probably has not been that long. It is extremely good news that six projects rather than three are being funded. Three of the companies use variations of the traditional biorefinery with enzyme hydrolysis, two use a gasification process and one uses the acid hydrolysis process, so there is a wide range of processes that will be represented in this field. I have often wondered whether the gasification or acid hydrolysis processes had any advantage over the biorefineries and now we may find out. This clears up funding for these participants, some of whom were waiting for government aid before committing to their project. May the race to cellulosic ethanol begin.