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Mascoma to Build Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Michigan

Mascoma Corporation chose Michigan as the site for a cellulosic ethanol plant that will primarily use wood chips and other non-food agricultural crops for feedstock.

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. These universities will partner with Mascoma on the project.

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.

Mascoma focuses on consolidating the many biologically mediated steps involved in ethanol production into a single step (Consolidated Bioprocessing, CBP). Mascoma is developing organisms to break down the cellulose, ferment sugar, tolerate high concentrations of ethanol and to devote most of their metabolic resources to ethanol production. (Earlier post.)

In March, Royal Nedalco and Mascoma Corporation signed a license and joint development agreement to further their initiatives to commercialize ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass. (Earlier post.)

In July, Range Fuels, Inc., formerly Kergy, a company that uses biomass gasification to produce ethanol, announced that it would build its first wood cellulosic ethanol plant in Treutlen County, Georgia. (Earlier post.)



Does anyone know if it is cost effective to make Cellulosic Ethanol at this point? Seems to me that this is the way to go in making Ethanol, but it may be too costly to be competitive with other fuels. I like that we aren't using food for fuel with this process.


I think what we're finally seeing here is cellulosic feedstocks are finally moving out of the lab and into the commercial sphere. This is a very good thing, and can't happen fast enough for me.


It is not cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol.

You can't get a cost breakdown from the companies who want to build these plants, only words to the effect "we expect to be competitive with corn-based ethanol sometime in the future"

It requires a lot of expensive enzymes to break cellulose down into fermentable sugars (much cheaper to break down corn starch into sugar)

I'd expect these companies to ask for more subsidies than corn-based ethanol producers.

D. Stewart

I would like to know just how much of our forest lands will be clear cut each year to produce the ethenol. And how fast do you think that our forest will be able to harvest agan. How will the reduction of our forest affect the housing industry?


Ethanol should only be made from crop wastes, and yet I've seen no legislation to this affect. Sad, when cropland worldwide is busy feeding people.

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