BlueFire Raises $15.5M for Cellulosic Ethanol

bluefireBlueFire Ethanol has closed $15.5 million in financing from Quercus Trust via a securities purchase agreement. The Irvine, Calif.-based ethanol producer is one of numerous companies in the race to master and scale cellulosic ethanol, specifically from municipal and green waste. BlueFire wants to build ethanol plants right alongside landfills, where it can then sort waste and synthesize cellulosic biomass into ethanol. BlueFire uses their “patented and proven” Concentrated Acid Hydrolysis Technology Process to convert tough cellulose into energy rich ethanol.

While some corn-based ethanol producers are nixing plant construction, BlueFire seems to be ramping up. BlueFire received a $40 million grant from the Department of Energy in October, along with five other cellulosic ethanol companies, for a 17 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant to be built near a landfill in Southern California. The company says it is also working on acquiring the correct permits for a facility to be located in Lancaster, Calif., to produce 3.1 million gallons of ethanol a year from cellulosic waste.

Already ’08 is looking like a solid year for cellulosic ethanol. Researchers from the Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska released a report this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the viability of switchgrass as an ethanol feedstock. The report found that switchgrass performed better than expected, giving an energy return of 540 percent, well above the projected 343 percent.

While BlueFire is still waiting on the same cellulosic ethanol breakthrough from the lab as potential switchgrass growers, the company doesn’t have to deal with the backlash from food, agricultural and environmental critics that is now attacking fields of fuel. But BlueFire can’t benefit from many of the subsidies in the energy and farm bills that specifically geared at having American farmers grow American fuel, either, given its fuel will mostly come from waste.

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