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DOE Awards Up to $385 Million to Six Cellulosic Ethanol Plants; Total Investment to Exceed $1.2 Billion

The US Department of Energy will invest up to $385 million for six biorefinery projects over the next four years. When fully operational, the biorefineries are expected to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

The solicitation, announced a year ago, was initially for three biorefineries and $160 million. However, in an effort to expedite the goals of the Advanced Energy Initiative and help achieve the goals of President Bush’s Twenty in Ten Initiative, within authority of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), Section 932, Secretary Bodman raised the funding ceiling.

Combined with the industry cost share, more than $1.2 billion will be invested in these six biorefineries. Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels. Funding will begin this fiscal year and run through FY 2010.

EPAct authorized DOE to solicit and fund proposals for the commercial demonstration of advanced biorefineries that use cellulosic feedstocks to produce ethanol and co-produce bioproducts and electricity.

The following six projects were selected:

  • Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC, up to $76 million. The proposed plant will be located in the state of Kansas and will produce 11.4 million gallons of ethanol annually and enough energy to power the facility, with any excess energy being used to power the adjacent corn dry grind mill. The plant will use 700 tons per day of corn stover, wheat straw, milo stubble, switchgrass, and other feedstocks.

    Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass investors/participants include: Abengoa Bioenergy R&D, Inc.; Abengoa Engineering and Construction, LLC; Antares Corp.; and Taylor Engineering.

  • ALICO, Inc. of LaBelle, Florida, up to $33 million. The proposed plant will be in LaBelle (Hendry County), Florida. The plant will produce 13.9 million gallons of ethanol a year and 6,255 kW of electric power, as well as 8.8 tons of hydrogen and 50 tons of ammonia per day. For feedstock, the plant will use 770 tons per day of yard, wood, and vegetative wastes and eventually energycane.

    ALICO, Inc. investors/participants include: Bioengineering Resources, Inc. of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Washington Group International of Boise, Idaho; GeoSyntec Consultants of Boca Raton, Florida; BG Katz Companies/JAKS, LLC of Parkland, Florida; and Emmaus Foundation, Inc.

  • BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. of Irvine, California, up to $40 million. The proposed plant will be in Southern California, will be sited on an existing landfill and produce about 19 million gallons of ethanol a year. As feedstock, the plant would use 700 tons per day of sorted green waste and wood waste from landfills.

    BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. investors/participants include: Waste Management, Inc.; JGC Corporation; MECS Inc.; NAES; and PetroDiamond.

  • Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, up to $80 million. The plant is in Emmetsburg (Palo Alto County), Iowa, and after expansion, it will produce 125 million gallons of ethanol per year, of which roughly 25% will be cellulosic ethanol. For feedstock in the production of cellulosic ethanol, the plant expects to use 842 tons per day of corn fiber, cobs, and stalks.

    Broin Companies participants include: E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Novozymes North America, Inc.; and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

  • Iogen Biorefinery Partners, LLC, of Arlington, Virginia, up to $80 million. The proposed plant will be built in Shelley, Idaho, near Idaho Falls, and will produce 18 million gallons of ethanol annually. The plant will use 700 tons per day of agricultural residues including wheat straw, barley straw, corn stover, switchgrass, and rice straw as feedstocks.

    Iogen Biorefinery Partners, LLC investors/partners include: Iogen Energy Corporation; Iogen Corporation; Goldman Sachs; and The Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

  • Range Fuels (formerly Kergy Inc.) of Broomfield, Colorado, up to $76 million. The proposed plant will be constructed in Soperton (Treutlen County), Georgia. The plant will produce about 40 million gallons of ethanol per year and 9 million gallons per year of methanol. As feedstock, the plant will use 1,200 tons per day of wood residues and wood based energy crops.

    Range Fuels investors/participants include: Merrick and Company; PRAJ Industries Ltd.; Western Research Institute; Georgia Forestry Commission; Yeomans Wood and Timber; Truetlen County Development Authority; BioConversion Technology; Khosla Ventures; CH2MHill; Gillis Ag and Timber.


Bob Bastard

Wait for it, wait for it....


It all sounds amazing, especially ALICO's. However wouldn't Bluefire's project make more sense being a plasma gassifacation project instead, so you dont have to sort through the garbage?


Fabulous! Marry a PHEV running on grid electricity and cellulosic ethanol from enzymes OR gasification of garbage and you cut the Arabs out of the loop altogether!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At least 3 of these cos are making gasification ethanol from garbage products. Hopefully this is just the beginning! MIT says we can make ethanol from garbage for $.05-.95/gallon and that we have enough garbage to replace 25% of the gasoline we consume. See and serach for ethanol.


So, we have a number of plants and a number of approaches.

May the best process win.


Interesting to compare the different projects, some would seem to produce far more per dollar invested than others.


May they all win.

John Baldwin

This is a really good report on bio-fuels, shows cost for each option (page 62).


Why not use biomass to create electricity and then sequester the co2 from the biomass. This is what Hansen, the climate scientist is recommending.

bill borsheim

The government(republicans) see the handwriting on the wall that the dead horse called oil is coming to an end. But instead of strongly backing pure electric vehicles, they are still trying to back the Internal Combustion Engine by paying $1 billion to the half dead horse called ethonol. Hey, the time of ICE is over. We can no longer tolerate ICE fumes near living beings. I knew that when I was 5 years old in the 1950's. It's time everyone knows that.

Bob Bastard

Tom, I think long term that is (hopefully) the direction things will go. However, in the short term, the main concern is to displace petroleum use for liquid fuel. Our electricity supply is already relatively diversified and immune to shortages when compared with our automotive fuel which is virtually completely dependent on petroleum supply. In the long run, purely electric vehicles would seem to me to be a much simpler and superior solution than any design involving ICEs. However, for now, the interim solution seems to be more efficient ICEs, hybrids, and biofuel supplementation, and I think unfortunately the ICE will be around for quite some time.
With regard to purely electric vehicles I have heard a good deal of talk about the idea of "quick charge" stations. From my small bit of knowledge on the subject, I know that most chemistries benefit from slower charging. Why not instead have automakers design highly modular battery packs that could be swapped out by a technician while you go buy some cigarettes, lottery tickets, and partially hydrogenated snack cakes in the convenience store? Cars are standardized to run on one type of fuel, so why couldn't they be standardized to use a universal battery pack (or packs in the case of larger vehicles)?

Bob Bastard

....Waiting..."The government(republicans) see the handwriting on the wall that the dead horse called oil is coming to an end."
Ah, there it is. I knew that when I saw Bush mentioned in the article, it would only be a matter of time until someone explained to us why this program is nothing short of an atrocity against mankind, and that the fact that big players are investing in it is not a positive sign that it has a future, but rather a conspiracy to keep all of us common folk perpetually enslaved to the oil industry bourgeoisie.

Rafael Seidl

Bill -

there's little harm in covering your bets. BEV technology may become viable for the mass market in the next decade, then again safety and longevity issues may keep it priced out of contention. 100 Tesla roadsters a year does not a revolution make. A million Teslas, now that would be a entirely different story...

That means that for the foreseeable future, most of the transportation sector worldwide will continue to be based on the ICE, whether you like it or not.

For reference, $385 million is roughly what the US spends in two days in Iraq. With Saddam gone and no WMDs found, the only reason US soldiers are still over there is to try and prevent a full-scale civil war that would suck in Iran and the Gulf Arabs, severely increasing the global supply risk for crude oil. Failing that, to at least defer that nightmare scenario until after Pres. Bush leaves office.

So even if the original rationale really was to prevent another 9/11-style attack on US soil - with the benefit of hindsight, a hotly contested argument - by now surely every soldier killed and every dollar spent there serves only one ultimate purpose: to keep all that oil flowing.



You've got to admit that Bush was oblivious to the issue until the last few months. Perhaps he has found religion and will do some good, but people have good reason to be sceptical.


Bob: In order for battery swapping to work I think there are a couple of things the business model would require. 1) the batteries would have to be owned and amortized by the energy companies (makes the car cheaper too). 2) you would pay a monthly subscription for the use of the batteries 3) You would pay a charge for energy used 4) the batteries are big enough and heavy enough that they would not only require a standard size, but also a standard method of loading and safely and quickly attaching. You don't want some guy with a fork lift ramming your car and spending 4 hours attaching the battery. I suspect that the only way to do that would be to allow the battery to drop out the bottom of the car onto a hydraulic lift.


Bob, if batteries were reasonably priced, your idea of the changable battery pack would be really good actually. It's too bad they're so damned expensive.

Bob Bastard

JMartin, its been slightly longer than a few months (couple of years maybe?), but none the less, point well taken. The fact is that most Americans have been oblivious to the issue until recently. Hardly any politicians are calling for an increase in the gas tax which is desperately needed. I've heard a number of democrats blaming Bush for the "outrageous price of gas," but if one of the politicians who has been screaming about the price of gas were to suddenly do an about face and call for higher gas taxes, I would commend him for it. The reason pols aren't calling for it is because its political suicide to do so, and the reason its political suicide isn't some vast oil cartel conspiracy, but because of our collective North American attitude. As a society, we are going to have to decide that our environment, our national security, and our sustainability as a society is more important than being able to fill up our Ford Expeditions for under $100USD. When that happens, the legislation will follow. $1.2 billion for cellulosic ethonol is a good thing. Do I think its enough? Not nearly, but it is a step in the right direction, and it can help raise awareness as well.

Bob Bastard

"So even if the original rationale really was to prevent another 9/11-style attack on US soil - with the benefit of hindsight, a hotly contested argument - by now surely every soldier killed and every dollar spent there serves only one ultimate purpose: to keep all that oil flowing."
Raphael, I think maybe its a bit more complex than that. Lets not forget about the full scale genocide that inevitably will occur when coalition forces pull out, or the fact that "Al Qaida in Iraq" will claim victory and every Bush hater in the world will revel in "Bush's defeat." I doubt anyone in the Bush administration wants any of that on their records, any more than they want the oil to stop flowing from the Persian Gulf.


You know, it's possible to discuss these developments without relating them to Iraq, Iran, and Bush.


Apparently its not possible.



More's the pity.

At any rate, I wonder if the various cellulose pre-processing methods can be retrofitted to the present 5 billion gallons of corn ethanol plants we already have, and if they can be further converted to biobutanol.


$385 million a day in Iraq...

Does this include the roughly $12 million a day to pay the soldiers typical wages that they would be paid regardless of their being in Iraq or elsewhere.

Does this also include food, fuel, and equipment costs normally spent in typical training? The Battery I was in (stationed in Korea) would easily spend $5,000,000 for these requirements in one year for about 100 soldiers. Multiply that by 1000 (100,000 soldiers) divided up into 365 days and that is another ~$14 million per day typically spent when we are NOT in a battle zone. We didn't even have any large vehicles or high caliber weapons (.50 cal, .223, and 9mm was all we had for firing ranges) which I'm sure a tank battalion, MLRS battalion, helicopter company, bomber group, or fighter squadron would easily burn through 10 times that much money for normal FTX's and training maneuvers in a year.

Spokane Walt

I'd like to see the Feds invest a bit more in BioDiesel. BioDiesel has been mostly a gress roots effort. I think BioD is NOT the 100% solution for the long term, but it has better yeild per agricultural acre than most Ethanol solutions and if they can get the BioD form Algae thing working, potential is very big. BioD also helps reduces the demand for OPEC Oil right now - if we could get just 5% of the fuel used by the long haul trucking uses over to BioD....

I also think the PHEV is need NOW - get all the vehicles that are driven no more than 40 miles per day to rechage at night and not polute at all during the day.

Like it or not, it is going to take at least 20, and probably up to 50 years to get the internal comb. engine out of the mainstream for day-to-day commuting. Every day we go without alternatives is just pushes this out...

Rafael Seidl

Spokane -

you could always use algae species that produce an ecess of starch rather than triglycerides and produce fuel alcohol from that. Biodiesel isn't going anywhere in the US because it's too expensive for freight haulage and there are very few diesel LDVs around. Different story in Europe, India and many other places, of course.



We still have a diesel fuel demand of about 40 billion gallons per year for HDVs, which is significant. And on long hauls, biodiesel filling stations in the middle of farm country are practical. Washington, Minnesota, and possibly soon Montana will have fuel mixing requirements.


In a sense, it doesn't matter if the other countries in the world does the switching to alternative fuels before the US.

Given the current political climate, the US is not leading the world in anything except pollution and over-consumption.

If we had had the political will, we could have already started to produce alternative fuels in such a volume as to reduce the need for fossil fuels.

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