This week Range Fuels was awarded a construction permit from the state of Georgia to build the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States. Ground breaking will take place this summer in Treutlen County, Georgia for a 100-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant that will use wood waste from Georgia's forests as its feedstock. Phase 1 of the plant is scheduled to complete construction in 2008 with a production capacity of 20 million gallons a year. The company estimates that this plant – combined with others to follow – will have the capacity to produce over 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year.
The company's technology completely eliminates enzymes which have been an expensive component of cellulosic ethanol production. The process is self-sustaining, produces virtually no waste products, emits very low levels of greenhouse gases, and produces high yields of ethanol. The thermo-chemical conversion process, the K2 system, uses a two step process to convert the biomass to synthesis gas, and then the syngas is passed over a catalyst and transformed into alcohols. The process accommodates a wide range of organic feedstocks of various types, sizes, and moisture contents. See previous post for details on the company.