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DOE to Fund 3 More Small-Scale Cellulosic Biorefinery Projects With Up To $86M

Doebiofuels1
Locations of major DOE biofuels projects, as of April 2008. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will invest up to $86 million in three additional small-scale cellulosic biorefinery projects over four years (FY ’08 - ’11). The selected biorefinery projects represent the second round of selections for DOE’s competitive small-scale biorefinery solicitation. (Earlier post.)

The three small-scale biorefinery projects—in Old Town, ME; Vonore, TN; and Washington County, KY—will use a wide variety of feedstocks and test novel conversion technologies to provide data necessary to commercialize full-scale biorefinery technologies. On average, commercial-scale biorefineries input 700 tons of non-food based feedstock per day, with an output of approximately 20-30 million gallons a year (MMGY). These small-scale facilities will input approximately 70 tons of feedstock per day, with an estimated 2.5 MMGY.

The selected small-scale biorefineries projects will produce liquid transportation fuels such as cellulosic ethanol, as well as bio-based chemicals and bio-based products used in industrial applications. Combined with varying industry cost share among the three selected projects, more than $300 million will be invested in these three projects.

The announcement is part of more than $1 billion in federal funding alone that DOE has announced since 2007 for multi-year biofuels research and development projects. These small-scale projects also complement the Department’s announcement, last year of six commercial scale biorefineries that aim to produce biofuels by using a variety of cellulosic materials as feedstock. (Earlier post.)

The full-scale biorefineries focus on near-term commercial processes, while the small-scale facilities will verify integrated operations at a reduced size with diverse feedstocks using novel processing technologies. These biorefineries will operate at a level equivalent to about 10% of a full-scale commercial plant.

Doebiofuels2
Overview of the seven small-scale biorefinery projects selected so far. Click to enlarge.

Earlier this year, DOE selected four projects in St. Joseph, MO; Commerce City, CO; Boardman, OR; and, Wisconsin Rapids, WI comparable in size and scope of work, to receive up to $114 million in federal funding. (Earlier post.) Combined, the seven selected biorefinery projects are expected to receive up to $200 million in DOE funding. When federal funding is combined with the industry cost share, more than $634 million will be invested in these projects, over the next four years.

Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels. Funding beyond 2008 is subject to appropriations from Congress. The following three projects were selected:

RSE Pulp & Chemical of Old Town, Maine. (DOE share: up to $30 million.) Participants in the project include the University of Maine and American Process Inc. The proposed biorefinery facility will be installed in an existing pulp mill in Old Town, Maine, and will produce cellulosic ethanol from lignocellulosic (wood) extract. The project uses a proprietary process developed at the University of Maine for pre-extracting hemicelluloses during the pulping process.

This process has been proven on a laboratory and pilot scale, and RSE will now prove the viability of the process at the demonstration plant level. The plant, estimated to be operational in 2010, will produce 80 dry tons/day of hemicellulose extract from woody biomass and produce 2.2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

RSE Pulp & Chemical is part of the RSE renewable energy and technology-based business consortium that consists of 22 companies in the U.S. and Canada.

Mascoma Corporation of Boston, Massachusetts; Proposed Plant in Vonore, Tennessee. (DOE share: up to $26 million.) Partners in the project include the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville, TN; the UT Research Foundation; and Genera Energy LLC. The proposed plant will be located in Monroe County, Tennessee, in the Niles Ferry Industrial Park. The facility is scheduled to come online in 2009 and will utilize Tennessee-grown switchgrass as a primary feedstock to produce 2 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol.

The plant, which will use Mascoma’s proprietary biochemical conversion process (earlier post), will generate process heat through the combustion of byproduct lignin.

The University of Tennessee has already contracted with farmers within 50 miles of the biorefinery to produce 720 acres of switchgrass in 2008, escalating to 6,000 acres by 2010.

Ecofin, LLC, of Nicholasville, Kentucky. (DOE share: up to $30 million.) Project partners include the University of Cincinnati; the University of Kentucky; and Alltech Inc. The biorefinery will use novel, solid-state enzymatic complexes developed by Alltech to convert a potentially wide range of lignocellulosic feedstocks, including corncobs, to ethanol and other nutritious feed sources, minimizing waste.

Target production is more than 1 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. The partners project that the plant will be operational in 2010. Ecofin, LLC is a subsidiary to Alltech Inc.

Comments

Healthy Breaze

So...they convert 4-6% of the mass of the cellulosic feedstock into ethanol. What happens to the other 94-96%?

Wouldn't it be a lot easier to just put up solar power stations in the desert? Less transportation of bulk goods. Less CO2 and methane released. Fewer ongoing operating costs? Less degradation of soil and ecosystems?

Jonas

Healthy Breeze, you don't power a car with solar power, do you?

sjc

You go with what you have. Right now we have ICE cars that run on liquid fuels. Most of the electricity is generated by coal and natural gas now. Even if all the HEVs became EVs over night, that would be just over 2% of the more than 10 million cars sold each year.

I would like to see more renewable energy and solar electric is one of those. The new solar thermal plant that they are building in the Mojave is a good start to add to the Kramer Junction power output.

We have not had a consistent energy policy over the last 30 years. Depending on who is in power, we are either funding it or pulling the plug so to speak. If we want a more secure energy future we will need to demand a consistent policy of support even when administrations change.

gr

The Solel 553MW solar thermal plant (trough parabola) will use only 9 square miles of desert land. This will add to the Mojave Solar Park project and yield an annual total of 1,388 gigaWh energy. And Brightsource Energy has announced contracts for 900MW utilizing their Distributed Power Tower heliostat mirror design.

A good result from California's leading legislation of 20% renewable grid power by 2010. This is consistent, well directed energy policy that leads the world in solar electric generation.

sjc

It looks like the states have had to take the lead on this when the Feds will not. That is OK for now, but we need something with more coherency in the long run.

Hybrid fan

Still, local energy sources do have their advantages. Trees to ethanol in Maine for instance. A lot of trees in Maine. And it's a very long pipeline indeed from the desert southwest to the northeast.

Herm

very interesting, good projects. No projections on the cost of the products and what is solid state fermentation?.. no water?

the biochemical methods have to be more efficienct than pyrolysis.

stas peterson

Solar energy can be ignored in small installations. When implemented in large installations producing Megawatts of energy, it is a pollution nightmare. PV Solar has a conversion efficiency of only 10%. So the extra 90% heat is just waste heat.

Coal may have to discard only one to two units of heat, per unit of useful electricity; and LWR nukes discard 2 units of heat for every unit of electricity. That waste heat than must be disposed of. It is hard to do. It warms the countryside, changes the ecology. To throw away 9 out of 10 is much more of a problem.

Big power installations use cool water reservoirs of water and heat them up. Without careful thought the heat would boil the river or reservoir and would boil fish to death. Or power plants alternatively use massive cooling towers to evaporate water into the air, to get rid of the waste heat. That consumes lots of water and heats the air too. When you have to throw away 9 times as much, the problem becomes enormous.

It can be discouraging to have to throw away 90% of what you have created, to get 10% out, but that is why solar energy is such a dog, as an energy source. it explains why it is always talked about but no one builds.

The Second law of Thermodynamics says that there is not much that can be done to raise solar efficiency either. As efficiency is a function of the span of Temperatures employed. The wider the gap, then more useful heat and less waste heat. But solar is lucky to have a difference of 100 degrees F, sometimes less, not a 1000 degrees, so the efficiency just can't be raised much. You will always have to work extra, extra, hard, to prevent boiling the lakes or reservoirs to get not much net energy. Or you could get a real Anthropogenic Warming started. Just venting that waste heat to the atmosphere would be like setting and maintaining a permanent forest fire, permanently sited over your solar installation. Some solar proponents suggest we create areas the size of Nevada or Arizona to create some portion of our need for energy.

To seriously propose paving an entire state with solar cells just shows how little environmental impact has been considered. What would happen without cooling?

Consider raising the temperature of a desert from 110 degrees by 25 or 50 degrees. You would fry every animal, plant and and cactus into charred crisps and exterminate every living species in the area the size of a State like Arizona.

We worry about raising temperatures by a few tenths of a degree in AGW. Yet these pseudo-environmentalists never consider the Anthropogenic effect of killing millions of species and altering local and perhaps global weather by stationing the equivalent to a permanent forest fire over an area equal to the size of Arizona.

Ridiculous.

S.P.A.R.E U.S.

(Society for the Prevention of Albedo Reduction, in the US)

stas peterson

Solar energy can be ignored in small installations. When implemented in large installations producing Megawatts of energy, it is a pollution nightmare. PV Solar has a conversion efficiency of only 10%. So the extra 90% heat is just waste heat.

Coal may have to discard only one to two units of heat, per unit of useful electricity; and LWR nukes discard 2 units of heat for every unit of electricity. That waste heat than must be disposed of. It is hard to do. It warms the countryside, changes the ecology. To throw away 9 out of 10 is much more of a problem.

Big power installations use cool water reservoirs of water and heat them up. Without careful thought the heat would boil the river or reservoir and would boil fish to death. Or power plants alternatively use massive cooling towers to evaporate water into the air, to get rid of the waste heat. That consumes lots of water and heats the air too. When you have to throw away 9 times as much, the problem becomes enormous.

It can be discouraging to have to throw away 90% of what you have created, to get 10% out, but that is why solar energy is such a dog, as an energy source. it explains why it is always talked about but no one builds.

The Second law of Thermodynamics says that there is not much that can be done to raise solar efficiency either. As efficiency is a function of the span of Temperatures employed. The wider the gap, then more useful heat and less waste heat. But solar is lucky to have a difference of 100 degrees F, sometimes less, not a 1000 degrees, so the efficiency just can't be raised much. You will always have to work extra, extra, hard, to prevent boiling the lakes or reservoirs to get not much net energy. Or you could get a real Anthropogenic Warming started. Just venting that waste heat to the atmosphere would be like setting and maintaining a permanent forest fire, permanently sited over your solar installation. Some solar proponents suggest we create areas the size of Nevada or Arizona to create some portion of our need for energy.

To seriously propose paving an entire state with solar cells just shows how little environmental impact has been considered. What would happen without cooling?

Consider raising the temperature of a desert from 110 degrees by 25 or 50 degrees. You would fry every animal, plant and and cactus into charred crisps and exterminate every living species in the area the size of a State like Arizona.

We worry about raising temperatures by a few tenths of a degree in AGW. Yet these pseudo-environmentalists never consider the Anthropogenic effect of killing millions of species and altering local and perhaps global weather by stationing the equivalent to a permanent forest fire over an area equal to the size of Arizona.

Ridiculous.

S.P.A.R.E U.S.

(Society for the Prevention of Albedo Reduction, in the US)

Engineer-Poet

(Finding the errors and dissecting the deliberately misleading assertions in the above is left as an exercise for the student.)

stas peterson

gr,

Your support for the California knuckleheads is charming.

The reality is that California is building a few small models of renewables. Thes even fgenerate a few Megawatts. Then they are buying and importing power by the Gigawatts from nearby States and Countries. Mexico, third world country, even exports electricity to the "oh so environmental knuckle heads" in charge of California.

Everyday that goes by, California falls further and further behind; and more and more dependent on others for its electricity.

Nevada Oregon, Arizona and Colorado are getting tired of selling to California. Its not bad when you have a surplus to sell. But by local laws, the Utilities in those states have to provide all the juice their own customers want, BEFORE they can export any electricity. Reserve Margins have shrunk in these States, paper thin, as California sucks more and more electricity that its own "oh so pristine citizens" can't dirty their hands to make. One day soon, there wii be no one to sell them the power they want, at any price, and it will be many years of rolling brownouts and outright blackouts before the situation is corrected.

When that happens, Californians will decide maybe a power plant or twenty, isn't really that bad, but it will still take years to build them. Right now there are no sites in California planning plants in the Nuclear Renaissance. There are no "clean coal" or otherwise, coal plants planned in California. The few Peaking Turbine facilities that grey Davis tried to crash erect, are all bnakrupt. They don't have any Natural Gas to run on anyway, and are not going to get any soon.

Colorado, Nevada and Arizona are growing, and demanding back the hydro electricity from the Colorado River dams, including the Hoover dam, that California has been taking, over its legally alloted amount, when these States were small and didn't need it.

After you dig a big deep hole, and jump in, it takes time to climb out and fill the hole back in.

I'm really glad that you are so enamoured of these knuckleheads; at least one person is.

gr

@Stan (proper spelling),

"PV Solar has a conversion efficiency of only 10%. "

One hopes that your apparent ignorance of solar technology is compensated for in some monetary manner. Solar thermal has far higher efficiencies than your old PV number of 10% (PV is approaching 30% economically). Thermal efficiencies for solar thermal parabolic trough designs are currently 33%.

Next generation power tower designs using heliostat mirrors and liquid fluoride salts (receiver fluid@ 1100C) and gas turbines generators would increase solar efficiencies to 61%.

Forget about the albedo - that's a straw man. The sun delivers some 3400 ZJ energy annually to the Earth's surface. To not utilize this abundance is stupefying ignorance. Please study more than the newest designs for fusion reaction before dismissing solar potentials.

Healthy Breaze

I look forward to the day when California will export electricity to Washington State during the day, and Washington State's hydroelectric power will be conserved to be used mostly for load balancing. Also, some of those flouride salts seem to hold their heat energy for days if you need to store the solar energy.

Raymond

I think the big problem with solar power up till now is the steep price of production of solar panels. Now that nanotechnology could cut that cost 80% or more, solar power suddenly becomes a real viable source of power, and given the cost of a new house nowadays (even in a depressed housing market) a solar panel costing US$5,000 fully installed would add almost nothing price-wise to the cost of the house and you can sell the excess power back to the local utility.

By the way, we're on the verge of making cellulosic plant processing into motor fuels cheap. This is a HUGE breakthrough, since we don't have to change the mix of agricultural products being planted--the entire plant, not just the corn kernels or sugar cane stalk, could be used to make ethanol on a huge scale. Imagine at the end of the growing season a large fraction of our agricultural waste shipped off to cellulosic processing plants to turn that waste into every motor fuel known....

sjc

We are going to need 1000s of cellulose fuel plants located near the biomass source to make a difference. That will take 10s of billions of dollars in capital to happen. It will be interesting to see if the financial community steps up on this one.

gr

"After you dig a big deep hole, and jump in, it takes time to climb out and fill the hole back in."

Unless of course you exit to the other side. Such event presents new horizons!

BTW, I like knuckleheads of all sorts. Especially those who can dance Hammertime in Roanoke.

phronesis

Healthy Breeze,

Unfortunately our hydro power here in Washington is dwindling with the snow pack, although ironically not this year. We just had snow at sea level on Saturday.


phronesis

"Coal may have to discard only one to two units of heat, per unit of useful electricity; and LWR nukes discard 2 units of heat for every unit of electricity. That waste heat than must be disposed of. It is hard to do. It warms the countryside, changes the ecology. To throw away 9 out of 10 is much more of a problem."

-Is this guy serious?!

@Stas Peterson its one thing to make ridiculous comments about not considering environmental impacts and then talk about coals "virtues", its another to do it in long winded statements.

You've made a few other silly comments I just picked the first but I nominate you to go search for fusion fuel on the moon, any seconds?

phronesis

Back to the original article, is there a reason that we continue to pursue ethanol in particular its not exactly the greatest transportation fuel.

I'm all for cellulosic conversion techniques but they need to be gasification or anaerobic digestion techniques then to syngas/alkanes to direct fuel replacements.

Not a fuel that requires sub-optimal adjustments on an ICE to make them work, like ethanol

sjc

Ethanol just became the fuel because Carter asked ADM to make some back in the 70s to get over some of the supply problems with gasoline. We could make it with fermentation and distillation like we have done for a long time. Research, development and startup costs were minimized.

With gasification and FT we could make pretty much what ever synthetic fuels we need. With oil over $115 per barrel, it looks even better. Some would say electric is the way, but we have lots of liquid fueled ICE cars and they are not going away any time soon.

sjc

"So...they convert 4-6% of the mass of the cellulosic feedstock into ethanol. What happens to the other 94-96%?"

"700 tons of non-food based feedstock per day, with an output of approximately 20-30 million gallons a year (MMGY)."

I think that the math works out to more than 4-6% on a mass basis. If you can get 100 gallons out of a ton and a gallon weighs 7 pounds, then 2000 pounds yields 700 pounds or more like 35%.

Harvey D

USA has had huge trade and energy deficits for too many years. If both are not addressed PROPERLY, within the next few years, somebody will have to pay dearly. The USA $ will go down to 1/2 Euro and to 1/3 Euro or even less if nothing substantial is done.

The recent USA attempt to feed (as usual) 100+ million gas guzzlers with corn ethanol is definately the wrong way to address this major (double) problem. To continue that way will push food prices so high that half the world population will go hungry, including many Americans.

Americans will have to realize that they can't continue burning liquid fuel at about 20 million barrels/day while producing less than 7 million barrels/day. Something will have to give. Americans will have to give up some of their acquired fuel cnsumption behavior and scrap (or recycle) a few million gas guzzlers.

A crash program for partial and/or total electrification of most ground vehicles seems to be one of the best solution.

Large quantities of second generation cellulosic ethanol and biofuel from non-food feed stocks will be required for special applications where electrification is not easy or too costly.

Current corn ethanol factories should be converted. Liquid fuel from non-food stocks should be addressed with another crash program, concurrently with the vehicle electrification program.

Vehicle design, specially size, weight and energy consumption should also be addressed. Somebody will have to convince Americans that it is not logical to drive around in a 3-Ton brick like a Hummer.

I'm not anti-American but I can see where they are heading to. We are almost as addicted to gas guzzlers in Canada but the problems are not the same. We produce over 150% of the fossil liquid fuel we consume (+ huge reserves) and don't have large trade or budget deficits or oil wars to fight.

USA's inactions or wrong actions may produce worldwide economic turmoil. It is time for a major change in policies and behavior.

If USA embarks quickly and agressively into the new clean energy-electrification economy, it could remain the world economic leader for a few more decades. Leaders with clear visions are required soon.

Harvey D

USA has had huge trade and energy deficits for too many years. If both are not addressed PROPERLY, within the next few years, somebody will have to pay dearly. The USA $ will go down to 1/2 Euro and to 1/3 Euro or even less if nothing substantial is done.

The recent USA attempt to feed (as usual) 100+ million gas guzzlers with corn ethanol is definately the wrong way to address this major (double) problem. To continue that way will push food prices so high that half the world population will go hungry, including many Americans.

Americans will have to realize that they can't continue burning liquid fuel at about 20 million barrels/day while producing less than 7 million barrels/day. Something will have to give. Americans will have to give up some of their acquired fuel cnsumption behavior and scrap (or recycle) a few million gas guzzlers.

A crash program for partial and/or total electrification of most ground vehicles seems to be one of the best solution.

Large quantities of second generation cellulosic ethanol and biofuel from non-food feed stocks will be required for special applications where electrification is not easy or too costly.

Current corn ethanol factories should be converted. Liquid fuel from non-food stocks should be addressed with another crash program, concurrently with the vehicle electrification program.

Vehicle design, specially size, weight and energy consumption should also be addressed. Somebody will have to convince Americans that it is not logical to drive around in a 3-Ton brick like a Hummer.

I'm not anti-American but I can see where they are heading to. We are almost as addicted to gas guzzlers in Canada but the problems are not the same. We produce over 150% of the fossil liquid fuel we consume (+ huge reserves) and don't have large trade or budget deficits or oil wars to fight.

USA's inactions or wrong actions may produce worldwide economic turmoil. It is time for a major change in policies and behavior.

If USA embarks quickly and agressively into the new clean energy-electrification economy, it could remain the world economic leader for a few more decades. Leaders with clear visions are required soon.

Paul F. Dietz

The Second law of Thermodynamics says that there is not much that can be done to raise solar efficiency either.

Ridiculously erroneous, Stan. The effective temperature of direct sunlight (ignoring atmospheric effects) is that of the surface of the sun, more than 5700 K. The second law limit on the efficiency of conversions of this energy to work, dumping heat into the Earth surface environment, is over 90%.

If you are considering systems that absorb the sunlight onto flat plates (with a large increase in entropy), and then use that low grade heat, this just shows you are a bad engineer.

Engineer-Poet

Per the 2LOT, the theoretical maximum efficiency of solar conversion is roughly equal to the Carnot efficiency of an engine running between the Sun's blackbody temperature (5700°K) and ambient.  More practically, quantum dots are holding out the possibility of 60% efficient conversion of sunlight to electricity.

Whereever Stan got infected with such a bad case of the stupids ought to interest the CDC; stopping the propagation of the disease would probably improve the country more than ten years of NCLB.

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