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USDA to provide $105M loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels; municipal solid waste to ethanol

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $105-million loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, LLC to finance development of a facility to convert municipal solid waste into advanced biofuels. With the loan guarantee finalized, the company will secure bank financing, which when combined with private equity capital provided by Fulcrum, will fully fund construction of the municipal solid waste to renewable transportation fuel facility.

The Sierra BioFuels Plant will be located approximately 20 miles east of Reno, Nevada in Storey County. The plant will produce 10 million gallons of ethanol annually as well as renewable energy to be used at the plant utilizing processed municipal solid waste as a feedstock. Fulcrum Sierra uses a two-part thermo-chemical process:

  1. Gasification converts the MSW into a synthesis gas, or syngas. Heat released in the gasification process is recovered to create steam for use in the plant.

  2. The syngas is catalytically converted into ethanol using our proprietary alcohol synthesis process.

USDA, through its Rural Development Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill), approved an 80% loan guarantee to finance the project, with a conditional commitment that Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, LLC must meet before loan closing.

The announcement is part of a larger USDA effort to produce advanced biofuels in every region of the country. USDA has funded 7 additional biorefineries that are using feedstocks like agriculture residue, woody biomass, municipal solid waste, and algae in states from Florida and Michigan to New Mexico. USDA is also investing in research by coordinating with five regional research centers to work on the science necessary to ensure profitable biofuels can be produced from a diverse range of feedstocks.



First, I think that landfills are a really bad outdated idea so doing anything is better than running a landfill.

However, once you have syngas which I is basically a mix of CO and H2, why not run a Fischer–Tropsch process which would give you synthetic diesel or jet fuel. Is the alcohol process more efficient? Certainly the synthetic diesel is worth more than alcohol.

Henry Gibson

Corn ethanol for fuel is not practical. This is just another version of bioethanol which has very limited volumes and energy compared to the production of fossil fuels coal, gas and crude petroleum. At least the plastic will be recycled to energy, but wait ethanol is still a food that can keep people alive who are in desperate need of calories. Pumps ought to be installed that can mix ethanol or any other bio-fuel with gasoline in a ratio determined by price.

Fuel made from coal should be available at the same pump at the price that it can be made at the low energy cost of coal. Gasoline from coal can cost less than 2 dollars a gallon, perhaps only one dollar where waste coal is converted at the mine site. Most people would vote for a cheap fuel when it comes time to pay cash, but the pump could sell bio-butanol made from selected organic wind-fall trees at 5 dollars a gallon for the devout. ..HG..


F-T diesel doesn't have a federally-mandated consumption level; ethanol from cellulose (presumably including MSW) does.

Qadir Tapra

What this investment fund should never invest is other people’s money and should never invest in politically justified programs and should never invest in technically unsound endeavors, lest it fail miserably.
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