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Mascoma Awarded $14.8M to Build and Operate Cellulosic Ethanol Demonstration Plant

20 December 2006

Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol developer and producer (earlier post), has received a $14.8 million award from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to build and operate a biomass-to-ethanol demonstration plant in Rochester, New York, pending local permit approvals and definitive agreements among the relevant parties.

The project will focus on demonstrating cellulose to ethanol technology and industrial processes. International Paper Co., Cornell University, Clarkson University and the Natural Resources Defense Council join Mascoma and Genencor as part of a consortium supporting the project.

The facility is expected to operate using a number of New York State agricultural and/or forest products as biomass, including paper sludge, wood chips, switch grass and corn stover. Genencor also plans to add capacity at its existing manufacturing facility to supply enzymes to the demonstration facility.

Following completion of design, engineering and site agreements and the required approval process, Mascoma estimates it will take 10-12 months to construct the pilot plant and begin operations.

Mascoma was founded in 2005 by biomass industry pioneers Drs. Lee R. Lynd and Charles Wyman of Dartmouth College. With financial backing of $39M from a syndicate of leading venture capital firms led by founding investor Khosla Ventures, Mascoma plans to build, operate and manage a 15,000 square foot facility in New York State to complete testing of multiple feedstocks and technologies for biomass ethanol.

Lynd’s applied biology research at Dartmouth focuses on two related themes: organism development for consolidated bioprocessing and the fundamentals of microbial cellulose utilization.

Consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) involves consolidating into a single process step four biologically-mediated events: cellulase production, cellulose hydrolysis, hexose fermentation, and pentose fermentation.

Because the CBP approach relies on microbial cellulose hydrolysis rather than enzymatic processing, fully developing it requires a fundamental understanding of the microbes’ use of cellulose. At Dartmouth, Lynd and his researchers work with Clostridium thermocellum as a model organism because of its high growth rate on cellulose together with its potential utility for CBP.

After decades of research and development around the world, cellulosic ethanol technology has reached a point where we are ready to demonstrate the commercial scale production of ethanol from biomass. We are very excited about the support from New York for our multi-feedstock approach, and we applaud New York and Governor Pataki’s leadership in developing the cellulosic ethanol market.

This plant will demonstrate the technologies we expect to rapidly move into commercial application. The continued development of these technologies will require the formation of new partnerships between academics, companies and feedstock producers.

—Colin South, president, Mascoma

As the enzyme partner for the project, Genencor expects to supply enzymes to the project as well as work with Mascoma to continue to improve its advanced enzyme products. Genencor intends to make further investments in its existing enzyme production facility in Rochester. Mascoma intends to locate the demonstration plant at or near Genencor’s manufacturing site in Rochester.

We see the development and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol as a growth industry for the state of New York. This funding award to Mascoma and the company’s demonstration plant initiative with Genencor are important steps in establishing this industry here.

Producing cellulosic ethanol locally is an ideal approach to further capitalize on this state’s agricultural and forestry resources like paper sludge, wood chips, and emerging energy crops.

—New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick H. Brennan

In November, Mascoma and Tamarack Energy, agreed to collaborate on the joint development of cellulosic ethanol facilities in New York, as well as follow-on opportunities in Pennsylvania and New England states, leveraging wood mills and other production facilities. (Earlier post.)

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Comments

"..biomass, including paper sludge, wood chips, switch grass and corn stover."

If acid, microbes nor enzymes do it, dry it and gasify it.

SJC:

Biomass gasification technology, generally speaking, is total failure, verified by 70 years of failed attempts in this pretty traditional technology, without any hope of dramatic technological breakthrough.

Grow up, man.

Do some research and read the rules:

"Disagreement is fine, insults, abuse or wild diversions are not. Comments not meeting those standards will be deleted."

If you bring evidence of your assertions that is fine, but not baseless insults.

SJC:

You contaminate practically every comment’s tread of this web site with the unsupported claim that “gasification is better”. Take a tour in the most basic reference such as Wikipedia to learn that:

“The gasification process was originally developed in the 1800s to produce town gas for lighting and cooking. Natural gas and electricity soon replaced town gas for these applications. Wood gasifiers, called Gasogene or Gazogène, were used to power motor vehicles in Europe during World War II fuel shortages.”

Now ask yourself why this ancient technology does not produce currently any amount of fuel or energy worth mentioning. If you will find any interesting or informational data, please do not hesitate to share it with us. Other vice…

Andrey,
I guess SJC is too much of a gentleman to defend himself. Allow me then, to do the dirty work.

You quote from the Wikipedia article on Gasification to support your claim that this is dated and doomed technology. Unfortunately, you apparently did not read the whole thing:
It is now recognized that gasification has wider applications; in particular the production of electricity, ammonia and liquid fuels (oil) using Integrated Gasification Combined Cycles (IGCC), with the possibility of producing methane and hydrogen for fuel cells. IGCC is also a more efficient method of CO2 capture as compared to conventional technologies. IGCC demonstration plants have been operating since the early 1970s and some of the plants constructed in the 1990s are now entering commercial service.

Within the last few years, gasification technologies have been developed that use plastic-rich waste as a feed. In a plant in Germany such a technology - on large scale - converts plastic waste via producer gas into methanol.[2]

As somebody schooled in basic references you would also be aware that SASOL (in South Africa) has been using Gasification/Fischer-Tropsch to produce liquid fuels (and other chemicals) from coal for 50 years. Profitably, I might add, when oil is >$35/bbl, i.e. for the foreseeable future.

You'd also be aware (presumably) of such recent developments as the June 2006 commissioning of a 34,000 bbl/d GTL plant in Qatar with potential expansion to 100,000 bbl/d. Or the construction of a 34,000 bbl/d GTL plant in Nigeria. Not bad for an ancient technology that, according to your informed opinion does not produce any amount of fuel or energy worth mentioning.

Perhaps you should follow your own advice and take a tour of the most basic references before you contaminate the thread with your ignorance...

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