Massachusetts-based company Mascoma will build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Michigan in its race to be the first in the nation to produce ethanol from wood on a commercial scale. The cellulosic plant will make ethanol mainly from wood chips and other non-food agricultural crops. Because cellulosic ethanol production uses non-food agricultural feedstock, it is critical to producing ethanol on a scale that could substitute for imported oil.
Mascoma Corporation is a low-carbon cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol company with corporate offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a R & D facilities in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Mascoma has developed an enzymatic process. It is continuing to develop advanced technologies in its own laboratory with Professor Lee Lynd at Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering by licensing “best in class” microorganisms and enzymes, and with other sponsored research around the world. It is also developing demonstration and commercial scale production facilities in several locations.
Mascoma’s R&D is focused on reducing the biologically mediated steps in ethanol production to a single step. Mascoma is developing organisms that will:
- Rapid break down the components of biomass
- Convert a range of sugars and polymers of sugars to ethanol
- Thrive in a manufacturing environment
- Produce ethanol with minimal by-products
Mascoma chose Michigan for the new plant based on the abundance of forestry and agricultural materials and the expertise found at Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University who will partner with Mascoma on the project to develop and hone scientific processes and Michigan feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production.
Michigan State will provide expertise in areas including pretreatment technology for cellulosic ethanol production and assistance with energy crops that can be utilized by the biorefinery. Michigan Tech will provide expertise through its “Wood to Wheels” initiative. This includes optimization of forestry feedstock materials for energy use, knowledge of sustainable forestry management practices, and access to its automotive engineering laboratories for analysis of the biofuels produced at the project site.
Earlier this year, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and NextEnergy, Michigan’s alternative energy accelerator located in Detroit, established a cellulosic biofuels working group to help craft strategy for the promotion of this industry in Michigan. They identified and targeted Mascoma as the lead company to partner with in generating renewable fuels from Michigan’s forestry resources. The MEDC and NextEnergy believe the partnership with Mascoma will dramatically advance Michigan as a national leader in the next generation of renewable fuels.
The MEDC is currently helping Mascoma identify a plant site within the state that will be strategically located to provide ready access to the feedstock needed each day for production. The full value of state incentives offered to Mascoma is contingent on the final site selection. Mascoma anticipates investing up to $150 million in the facility, which is expected to employ 20 to 40 full-time employees and to create more than 100 construction jobs, up to 300 forestry jobs, another 150-200 transportation and maintenance jobs.
Initial funding of $4MM in early 2006 was received from Khosla Ventures and Flagship Ventures, with subsequent funding of $30MM in venture capital equity funding and a $14.8MM grant from NY State for the establishment of a demonstration plant.