Range Fuels to Build First Wood Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Georgia

07 February 2007

Range Fuels, Inc., formerly Kergy, a company that uses biomass gasification to produce ethanol, will build its first wood cellulosic ethanol plant in Treutlen County, Georgia. The company, founded by Khosla Ventures, estimates that this plant—combined with others to follow—will have the capacity to produce more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year.

Wood waste from Georgia’s millions of acres of indigenous Georgia Pine will be the main source of biomass for the ethanol production.

The Range system, which it calls K2, uses a two-step thermochemical conversion process. It first gasifies biomass waste such as wood chips, agricultural wastes, grasses, cornstalks, hog manure, municipal garbage, sawdust and paper pulp to create a syngas that it then converts catalytically to ethanol.

In addition to supporting a broad range of biomass for feedstock, the K2 system is also modular. Depending upon the quantity and availability of feedstock, the K2 system can scale from entry level systems to large configurations. This range of system performance will allow the K2 to be placed near the biomass location reducing transportation costs, and will allow the most economical size system to be deployed.

The Range system is based on a gasifier and ethanol reactor developed by Robert (Bud) Klepper, originally called the Klepper Pyrolytic Steam Reforming Gasifier (PSRG) with a Staged Temperature Reaction Process (STRP) and the Klepper Ethanol Reactor. Klepper had run his own company, called BioConversion technology, and targeted the gasification technology at coal as well as biomass feedstocks. (Earlier post.) He is now an advisor to Range.

In earlier evaluations, the Klepper PSRG with STRP system was found to generate syngas from coal, coal slurry, coal fines and other biomass feedstocks with energy content in the range of 400–600 BTU/ft3 at an average thermal energy conversion efficiency of 75%.

The Klepper system has the highest energy efficiency of any system and the highest syngas energy content of any thermochemical biomass conversion system that has been developed for biomass inputs of less than 1,000 tons/day, according to a comparative evaluation of such systems performed for the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, California.

The Klepper PSRG with STRP employs an entrained flow principle (using a gas to propel the pulverized feedstock through the direct fired reaction zone) but features two separate reactors: a devolitization reactor and a reforming reactor.

The devolitization reactor slowly raises the temperature of the feed material through 450°F (the temperature at which combustion will occur) until a substantial portion of the oxygen has reacted with more reactive material in the feed.

Once the available oxygen has been reacted at below combustion temperature, the feed material temperature is raised to a higher temperature, for example 650°F, prior to combination with super heated steam (1,500°F) and a subsequent rise in temperature to react with the carbonaceous feed material and produce the CO- and H2-rich syngas.

The Klepper system uses the produced syngas and process steam to propel the feedstock through the segregated steam reforming reactor. Among other things, this technique raises the calorific value of the syngas by not diluting the product syngas with nitrogen or carbon dioxide as is the case with an air-blown gasifier. Nor does it require a costly separate supply of oxygen or the elevated temperatures and “run-away” pyrolysis issues associated with the use of an oxygen-blown gasifier.

This multi-stage approach results in a very high conversion efficiency, while at the same time, keeping the tar content in the produced gas extremely low. Another unique feature specific to the Klepper system is that the cyclones and water condenser are integrated and contained within the biomass gasification chamber. This design conserves space and reduces the loss of heat energy.

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Sounds good. Perhaps 1 billion gallalons of cellulosic ethanol by 2008?

10 billion by 2015?

100 billion by 2025?

Lets hope peak oil can be fought off for 10-15 years.(Hopeing but doubtful). Still, its news like this that gives me optimism for the future.

More good news.
I do love the fact we are making such strides with Ethanol but I feel like we are pissing away any advantages. Cafe standards must be changed, an E85 Prius would be nice. I would by one if I could fill it in New England.
Biodiesel, 50 mpg jetta and Algae. Any better options?

Awesome news but I read the article and couldn't find when construction will start.

Nothing like getting the jump on those fiddling around with finicky enzymes.

I would like to know when construction is supposed to be completed, because Saskatchewan is getting a Cellulosic ethanol plant in late 2008, and I'm kind of curious about their claim of the "first" wood cellulosic ethanol plant, because I believe ours(Saskatchewan's) is supposed to make ethanol from wheat straw and wood shavings.

The thought of gasifying MSW is just not clean. Biomass is OK to gasify but not municipal waste. Other than that a cool idea.

You need to do some more due diligence on gasification of MSW. It can be very clean, produce ethanol along with electricity and slag to use for road construction. It's a lot better than leaving it in a huge hole in the ground to contaminate the water supply. The city of Port St Lucie, FL has a plan to do a gasification project and they expect to consume all MSW as well as empty the current landfill in ~15 years. The project is expected to pay for itself with electricity sales. Google-st lucie + gasification. This is not a new idea. I just wish the DOE would get behind a few demonstration projects. The Germans used gasification to run their trucks in WWII on firewood.

I do not doubt that the Germans used some sort of gasification in WWII. But if it were feasible, why did the Germans stop doing it after the war? They were in desperate needs during their reconstruction also. They didnt do it because it is not feasible, thats why. Towards the end of WWII, they were fairly desperate and had to try to do what they could, as they were being squeezed from every direction.

Wood gasification, to me, does not make much more sense than using all our valuable farmland to grow biofuel. Eventually the so called wood "waste" will become the primary product, and our natural forests will be decimated similar to the way the rain forests in Brazil have been used up. But if municipal garbage can be utilized effectively, than it will be of benefit. But this will not be the silver bullet everyone is expecting. That silver bullet will be the next big breakthrough in battery size and costs, and not in an ICE powerplant.

Well, you could probably tune the process to produce methanol, and then run that through a fuel cell in a car to increase overall WTW efficiency, if not for the upfront FC costs.

Mark A wrote:

They didnt do it because it is not feasible, thats why.

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Reread that one again. If they used gasification at all, then it was "feasible". It became "inconvenient" with cheap gas. We no longer have cheap gas and technology has had what, 60 years to develope and refine the gasification process?

As far as using wood for gasification leading to deforestation, I think you are getting ahead of yourself. First of all, all the saw chips, bark, twigs, limbs of the lumber industry lay on the ground now, left to rot and produce CO2 in the process. Then add in all the crops with cornstalks, wheatstraw, rice hulls and straw, etc, etc, etc, rotting producing CO2. How could you have a problem with taking a product, which will produce CO2 by rotting on the ground, and making energy from it thereby displacing coal and natgas? Then, factor in MSW and the possibility that you could actually consume all the MSW(Municipal Solid Waste) and produce electricity and ethanol from it eliminating landfills, protecting water tables, producing slag for road construction(and not having to consume MOUNTAINS full of rock for roadbuilding)thereby displacing billions of barrells of oil?

There will be no one silver bullet. There will be a lot of different technologies like this which help out and then if we get battery technology up to speed and finally get that 40 mile PHEV in a couple of years we could be energy independent in <10 years. And along the way the environment got cleaned up at a profit!

Hi All,

Yes, I think this is misdirected as well. The reason to make biofuel should be to supply the existing infrastructure of vehicles. In that respect, they should find a way to make butanol with the project. There is going to be an ethanol glut in a few years, when people wont buy it even to run in their E85 cars as these cars do not burn ethanol efficiently (MPG is poor), and plenty around for the E10 low-emissions gasoline formula.

A power plant can be configured to burn the wood waste just as easily as coal. So, with electric vehicles one can avoid all the fuel making chemistry - and just make electric power.

In the meantime we need something that will burn and transport in and with existing equipment.

As far as a crop for celulosic biofuel has anybody looked into Bamboo? Seems to me it would grow very well in the eastern gulf coast. And is know to be a very quick growing plant.

Is bamboo currently being grown in the eastern gulf? If not, then we need to be careful in intoducing new plant species into new areas. Some new plants will thrive under new conditions, to the point in which they become a nuisance. Kudzu was introduced into the southeast during the depression for its soil building and soil holding ability in eroded areas. It then became a nuicance weed that intruded itself into areas unwanted, costing many many times over what it was to fix. Obviously we learn from mistakes, but at times some apprehension is warranted.

Manufactured gas is a really old idea. It is the conversion of the old technology to new liquid fuels, some of which can use the existing infrastructure, that is new. This technology could be deployed in sizes from home kits all the way up to municipally owned plants for large communities. Distributed production along with abundant feed stocks could make this technology as common as the wood burning heater.

The wood (waste) gasification part of this technology is great! Seems like these guys have made some significant advances, leading to the highest efficiency (among existing technologies). And have a system that can operate on small scale is also important.

But inevitably brain-freeze had to step in at some point. Why convert the syngas to ethanol? Why limit your green fuel to flex-fuel vehicles? Why create a fuel that cannot be pumped in existing fuel pipelines, can only be mixed in certain ratios and creates other issues (corrosion, evaporative losses, etc.)?

It would be much better to convert the syngas to hydrocarbon (gasoline and diesel) and have a fuel that can replace fossil fuel gallon-for-gallon without any special requirments (read costs).

No enzymes, no distillation and the factory travels to where the raw material is. Sounds pretty good. We need more info on ethanol yield and other end products.

If this process works as stated here, someone else will most likely pick-up at the ethanol production point and just make diesel and gasoline as others here have already pointed out. We just need to get a few of the plants up and running so the Media and Business Community get wind of it. LOL

The process that is stated in this post is very similar to the Bioenergy and Biomass Gasification pdf file mentioned in this link; http://www.gastechnology.org/webroot/downloads/en/IEA/June06GermanyTaskMeeting/IEA_Dresden_country_USA_6_06.pdf

Many of you are rightfully concerned about vehicles of low mpg consuming precious ethanol or other liquid fuels that will be in short-supply.
For that reason, I'd say, make some liquid fuels for now to get the gasifiers built everywhere, but in the future, when petroleum will be more scarce and biofuel cannot support our inefficient vehicle fleets of today, the most efficient way is to convert all the syngas into H2 near the point of consumption for H2/methane-capable vehicles. H2-vehicles are guaranteed to be 2-3 times more efficient than current vehicles, not by choice, but by necessity to have adequate range. The CO2 left behind can be saved for growing algae to produce algae oil at very high yield for more biofuels, or for producing methane from H2 generated at high-temp nuclear plants.

Hi Mark,

Check out:

http://www.americanbamboo.org/SpeciesSourceListPages/PlantAndProductSources.html

Seems there are lots of Bamboo growing operations nationwide.

Roger,
As I have stated elsewhere, there is no sensible reason to produce hydrogen if you could produce green diesel and gasoline and spend no unnecessary money on converting vehicles, fuel supply or fuel transportation infrastructure.

The only benefit hydrogen has compared to liquid hydrocarbon fuels is high energy:mass ratio. That makes hydrogen a good fuel for space travel (and nothing else). Call me when hydrogen starts to penetrate the (fiercely competitive) airline industry where its high energy:mass ratio means something, unlike for everyday surface travel.

The only benefit hydrogen has compared to liquid hydrocarbon fuels is high energy:mass ratio. That makes hydrogen a good fuel for space travel (and nothing else).

And even there, hydrogen suffers from its low density, particularly in launch vehicles. LOX/LH2 rockets require large propellant tanks, even if their mass ratios are lower than LOX/hydrocarbon rockets. Denser propellants are also easier to pump up to high pressure, making the rocket engines lighter. It's not surprising that the Atlas V (a LOX/hydrocarbon launcher) has done better than the most recent incarnation of the Delta (an all LOX/LH2 launcher).

Regardless of other practicality issues, I like hydrogen as a fuel for its lack of local emissions and the lower noise pollution of a FC. (I like electricity even better)

Neil,
FC cars cost about $1 million apiece. Mass production? OK, cut the price in half. Still ain't going to happen. The hydrogen dream is ~50 years old, and no closer to reality... FC cars cost about$1 million apiece. Mass production? OK, cut the price in half.

And because the fuel cells are so expensive, they have to optimize them to increase current density at the expense of efficiency, so they have no real efficiency advantage over hybrids with IC engines, and are less efficient than electric vehicles charged from the wall plug.

We are on the verge of something BIG with this. This is a potential revolution for the timber industry - which will turn into its own big fuel industry! They can say goodbye to fuel bills - since they could be making their own fuel on-site to run all their machines and power their facilities! This could also entice other landowners (like cattle ranchers here in Florida) to convert their lands to timber production with the increased land value! Sprawl from development could be stopped in its tracts in many places as landowners (like cattle ranchers and other struggling farmers) realize they could make big \$ by planting trees and making fuel instead of selling out to developers and paving over creation!

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