Cellulosic ethanol in the United States

President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address delivered January 31, 2006, proposed to expand the use of cellulosic ethanol. In his State of the Union Address on January 23, 2007, President Bush announced a proposed mandate for 35 billion gallons of ethanol by 2017. It is widely accepted that the maximum production of ethanol from corn starch is 15 billion gallons per year, implying a mandated production of some 20 billion gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol by 2017. Bush's plan includes $2 billion dollars funding for cellulosic ethanol plants, with an additional $1.6 billion announced by the United States Department of Agriculture on January 27, 2007.Fact|date=June 2008

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is promoting the development of ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks as an alternative to conventional petroleum transportation fuels. Programs sponsored by DOE range from research to develop better cellulosehydrolysis enzymes and ethanol-fermenting organisms, to engineering studies of potential processes, to co-funding initial ethanol from cellulosic biomass demonstration and production facilities. This research is conducted by various national laboratories,including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), as well as by universities and private industry. Engineering and construction companies and operating companies are generally conducting the engineering work. [http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/37092.pdf Feasibility Study for Co-Locating and Integrating Ethanol Production Plants from Corn Starch and Lignocellulosic Feedstocks: A Joint Study Sponsored by U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Energy] January 2005, p. 1.] In May 2008, Congress passed a new farm bill that will accelerate the commercialization of advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol. The "Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008" provides for grants covering up to 30% of the cost of developing and building demonstration-scale biorefineries for producing "advanced biofuels," which essentially includes all fuels that are not produced from corn kernel starch. It also allows for loan guarantees of up to $250 million for building commercial-scale biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels. [ [http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_bills&docid=f:h2419enr.txt.pdf Food, Conservation,and Energy Act of 2008] ]

Facilities

A number of companies are making significant progress on building facilities to convert cellulosic biomass, such as agricultural and forestry wastes, into ethanol [http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/news/archive.cfm/pubDate=%7Bd%20%272008%2D09%2D03%27%7D#11958] .

In early August, AE Biofuels, Inc. opened a demonstration facility in Butte, Montana, to produce ethanol from a variety of plant materials, including grasses, wheat straw, corn stalks, and sugar cane stalks. But the facility is also able to produce ethanol from traditional starch and sugar sources such as corn, wheat, barley, and sugarcane, providing flexibility for the company. According to AE Biofuels, the company's Ambient Temperature Enzyme technology significantly reduces the consumption of energy and water in the production of ethanol.

Other pilot-scale facilities currently under development include a facility in Vonore, Tennessee, that will be built by DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE)—a joint venture of DuPont and Genencor, a division of Danisco—and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation. The facility will draw on dedicated switchgrass crops and corn stover, freeing their sugars using a combination of an alkaline pretreatment and enzymes and converting the sugars into ethanol using a proprietary biocatalyst. It will start producing ethanol in December 2009.

Poet, LLC is also building a pilot-scale facility in Scotland, South Dakota, that will convert corn cobs into ethanol using a proprietary process. That facility will start producing ethanol this year, preparing Poet to start construction of a commercial-scale facility in Emmetsburg, Iowa, next year. Partially funded by DOE, the Emmetsburg facility will produce 25 million gallons per year of ethanol from corn fiber and corn cobs and is slated to begin operating in late 2011.

A number of other commercial-scale facilities are also in the works.

Mascoma Corporation and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm have announced plans to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Located in Chippewa County south of Sault Ste. Marie, the facility will use microbes to break down wood fiber and ferment it into ethanol, a process known as consolidated bio-processing.

In addition, BlueFire Ethanol Fuels, Inc. has been granted a conditional-use permit from the County of Los Angeles for the construction of a commercial facility to convert biowaste into ethanol. To be located near Lancaster, about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, the facility will use concentrated acid to break down non-foodstock urban wastes (such as grass clippings) and forestry and agricultural residues so they can be fermented into ethanol. Slated to begin operation in late 2009 with partial funded from a DOE grant, the facility will separate lignin from the biomass and use it to produce electricity and steam.

And Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. plans to build a facility near Reno, Nevada, that will use a Plasma Enhanced Melter from InEnTec, LLC to gasify municipal solid waste, followed by a catalytic process to convert the gas into ethanol. Construction will begin in 2008, with production slated for early 2010.

Technology companies

* EdeniQ [ [http://www.edeniq.com EdeniQ :: Clean, affordable, cellulosic biofuels ] ]
* Mascoma [http://www.mascoma.com/technology/technology.html]

References


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