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.)