After reading “The Rush to Ethanol” report, we gave ethanol, particularly corn-based ethanol, a pretty hard time. But celluosic ethanol, which uses plant waste and non-food crops like switch grass, has received a lot of research and media attention in the U.S. recently. It’s able to avoid the food-vs-fuel debate and many consider it a key resource for a renewable biofuel future.
Researchers have been working on cracking the cellulosic code for years — since the 90’s according to this New York Times article. And large scale cellulosic ethanol production (15 billion gallons per year) is still another decade away according to Mark Holtzapple, professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M in this interview.
But there has been some significant investment into bringing cellulosic plants online lately, particularly through government funds. Here’s 6 events that highlight how cellulosic ethanol is making progress in the U.S:
- Abengoa Bioenergy will reportedly soon announce a $300 million ethanol project that will include its first US-based cellulosic ethanol production plant in Hugoton, Kansas. [via GreenCarCongress]
- Range Fuels got its construction permit from the state of Georgia to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in the state. The company says construction will start this summer for the 100-million-gallon-per-year plant that will use wood waste from Georgia’s forests as its feedstock. By 2008 the company expects a production capacity of 20 million gallons a year.
- Ethanol producer Verenium pays the University of Florida a $66,000 royalty check after the company produces cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste in a plant in Osaka, Japan, using the university’s patented technology.
- Poet says it intends to use corncobs and corn fiber to make cellulosic ethanol. In a joint effort with the U.S. DOE, the company is converting an ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, into a commercial cellulosic biorefinery.
- In February of this year the Department of Energy said it will invest up to $385 million for six cellulosic ethanol projects over the next four years. The goal is to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012. The projects include investment in Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass, Alico, BlueFire Ethanol, Poet, Iogen Biorefinery Partners, and Range Fuels.
- The House just passed its version of the energy bill, and the San Francisco Chronicle points out that the measure provides $3.5 billion to install E-85 pumps and expand production of cellulosic ethanol.