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DOE Selects 3 Small-Scale Biorefinery Projects for up to $86 Million of Federal Funding in Maine, Tennessee and Kentucky

April 18, 2008 - 10:49am

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Projects Demonstrate Continued Commitment to Advancing Development of Sustainable, Cost-Competitive Cellulosic Ethanol

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced the competitive selection of three projects in which DOE plans to invest up to $86 million over four years (FY '08 - '11) to support the development of small-scale cellulosic biorefineries in Old Town, ME; Vonore, TN; and Washington County, KY. This funding will further President Bush's goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012, and reduce America's gasoline use by expanding the availability of alternative and renewable transportation fuels. Secretary Bodman made today's announcement at the U.S. Department of Energy's Biomass 2008: Fueling Our Future conference in Alexandria, VA. 

"These projects will help pioneer the next generation of non-food based biofuels that will power our cars and trucks and help meet President Bush's goal to stop greenhouse gas emissions growth by 2025," Secretary Bodman said. "Sustained investments in cellulosic fuels made from corn cobs, woodchips, switchgrass and other agricultural waste will strengthen our nation's energy security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil."

The three small-scale biorefinery projects will use a wide variety of feedstocks and test novel conversion technologies to provide data necessary to commercialize full-scale biorefinery technologies. On average, commercial-scale biorefineries input 700 tons of non-food based feedstock per day, with an output of approximately 20-30 million gallons a year (MMGY). These small-scale facilities will input approximately 70 tons of feedstock per day, with an estimated 2.5 MMGY.

Expected to be operational within four years, the selected small-scale biorefineries projects will produce liquid transportation fuels such as cellulosic ethanol, as well as bio-based chemicals and bio-based products used in industrial applications. Combined with varying industry cost share among the three selected projects, more than $300 million will be invested in these three projects. 

Today's announcement is part of more than $1 billion in federal funding alone that DOE has announced since 2007 for multi-year biofuels research and development projects.  These small-scale projects also complement the Department's announcement, last year of six commercial scale biorefineries that aim to produce biofuels by using a variety of cellulosic materials as feedstock.  The full-scale biorefineries focus on near-term commercial processes, while the small-scale facilities will verify integrated operations at a reduced size with diverse feedstocks using novel processing technologies. These biorefineries will operate at a level equivalent to about 10 percent of a full-scale commercial plant.

The selected biorefinery projects represent the second round of selections for DOE's competitive small-scale biorefinery solicitation. Earlier this year, DOE selected four projects in St. Joseph, MO; Commerce City, CO; Boardman, OR; and, Wisconsin Rapids, WI comparable in size and scope of work, to receive up to $114 million in federal funding.  Combined, the seven selected biorefinery projects are expected to receive up to $200 million in DOE funding. When federal funding is combined with the industry cost share, more than $634 million will be invested in these projects, over the next four years. 

These projects seek to advance the Administration's comprehensive energy strategy of increasing the nation's energy, economic and national security by reducing our nation's reliance on foreign oil and stopping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 through increased efficiency and diversifying the nation's energy sources such as biofuels, wind, solar, and nuclear energy.

Cellulosic ethanol is an alternative fuel made from a wide variety of plant materials or non-food based feedstocks, including agricultural wastes such as corn stover, forest waste including saw dust and paper pulp, and energy crops, like switchgrass.  By refining a variety of regional feedstocks, cellulosic biofuels can be sustainably produced in nearly every region of the country.  DOE is working with these companies, and other research partners, to develop methods for reducing water and fertilizer needs associated with production of these fuels.  According to scientist at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory, compared with conventional gasoline, ethanol produced from cellulosic materials requires as much as 90 percent less fossil energy to produce and has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 86 percent over the lifecycle.

Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels.  Funding beyond 2008 is subject to appropriations from Congress. 

The following three projects were selected:

RSE Pulp & Chemical of Old Town, Maine. (DOE share: up to $30 million.)
RSE Pupl and Chemical LLC
The proposed biorefinery facility will be installed in an existing pulp mill in Old Town, Maine, and will produce cellulosic ethanol from lignocellulosic (wood) extract. The project uses a proprietary process for pre-extracting hemicelluloses during the pulping process. This process has been proven on a laboratory and pilot scale, and RSE will now prove the viability of the process at the demonstration plant level. RSE Pulp & Chemical is part of the RSE renewable energy and technology-based business consortium that consists of 22 companies in the U.S. and Canada. RSE Pulp & Chemical participants/investors include: University of Maine Orono, Maine; and American Process Inc Atlanta, Georgia.

Mascoma Corporation of Boston, Massachusetts Proposed Plant in Vonore, Tennessee. (DOE share: up to $26 million.)
Mascoma Corporation
The proposed plant will be located in Monroe County, Tennessee, in the Niles Ferry Industrial Park.  The facility is scheduled to come online in 2009 and will utilize Tennessee grown switchgrass as a primary feedstock. The plant will be the first cellulosic ethanol facility at this scale in Tennessee and will be used to demonstrate technologies and concepts that will make cellulosic ethanol an economically viable industry in the future. Mascoma was founded in early 2006 with the goal of commercializing cellulosic ethanol.  Mascoma is partnering with The University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville, TN, the UT Research Foundation and Genera Energy LLC, which was created to implement Tennessee Gov. Bredesen's Biofuels Initiative announced in 2007.

Ecofin, LLC, of Nicholasville, Kentucky. (DOE share: up to $30 million)
Ecofin, LLC
The proposed plant will be located in Washington County, Kentucky. The biorefinery will use novel, solid-state enzymatic complexes to convert a potentially wide range of lingocellulosic feedstocks, including corncobs, to ethanol and other nutritious feed sources, minimizing waste. Ecofin, LLC is a subsidiary to Alltech Inc.

For more information on today's announcement visit the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Media contact(s):

Jennifer Scoggins, (202) 586-4940

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