Thursday, November 8, 2007

US First Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

Range Fuels broke ground on the construction of the US' first cellulosic ethanol plant in Soperton, Georgia. Feedstock to be used is wood and wood waste from the Georgia lumber industry. The first phase of the plant, expected to be completed in 2008, is planned to produce 20-million gallons per year, with a maximum capacity of 100-million gallons.

From the Range Fuels press release (via AutoblogGreen):
Range Fuels selected Georgia for its first plant based upon the state's robust wood products industry supported by Georgia's vast sustainable and renewable forest lands. The state's environmental sensitivity and responsible stewardship of its forest lands have created resources that allow Georgia to support up to two billion gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol production through the application of Range Fuels' technology.
I'm curious about the technology they are employing. Their own description indicates to me that their process is very energy intensive to convert the feedstock into a gas that can then be passed over a catalyst to convert the gas into "mixed alcohols." It almost looks like the cement equation to me. Cement is a great product, as long as you don't consider the energy costs to product it, or even more similarly of corn-based ethanol. If Range Fuels is willing to build the plant, the cost of energy inputs must be lower than the projected cost of selling ethanol. Of course, they may be making their profit at the government feed trough through subsidies and grants.

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