|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.
|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.