Raven Biofuels announces plans in Washington, British Columbia

By Susanne Retka Schill
California-based Raven Biofuels International Corp. announced in June plans to build an 11 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant in Washington. A month earlier, Raven Biofuels announced a partnership with Spectrum Energy Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, to develop cellulosic biorefineries in the province.

The Canadian partnership will use softwood infested with mountain pine beetles and other woody biomass as feedstocks, while the project in Washington will also use wood waste.

Raven Biofuels will use a proprietary two-stage, diluted acid hydrolysis technology to turn woody biomass into ethanol and high-value furfural chemicals. The company said it can produce the ethanol for less than $1 per gallon. Pure Energy Corp. developed the technology from earlier work done by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Raven Biofuels announced its intention to merge with Pure Energy in March. "The technology is based on simple and proven pulp and paper mill technology used in the industry for many years successfully," explained John Sams, chief operating officer of Raven Biofuels. "This reduces the risk of commercial deployment and will facilitate a fast rollout of multiple sites in North America."

Raven Biofuels projected a $30 million investment in the plant to be built in Longview, Wash. It intends to raise one-third of that through equity investments, while the remainder will come from project debt financing. It also intends to apply for financial support through grants, loan guarantees, and subsidies from state and federal programs. Sams said the permitting process and final engineering are underway with groundbreaking slated for December. In early July, Raven Biofuels secured equity funding totaling $10 million from Blackhawk Investments Ltd. and Clean Energy Holding Corp.

Construction in British Columbia is expected to follow three to six months after the Washington project begins. It would be the first cellulosic ethanol plant in the province. Spectrum Energy and Raven Biofuels have submitted a funding proposal to the province's Clean Energy Fund. In British Columbia, beetles are quickly killing pine forests that cover an area the size of Texas, containing enough biomass to produce more than 1 billion gallons of biofuels.

Raven Biofuels projects it will have 100 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol in production within four years. In June, the company announced the development of an offtake agreement with Eco-Energy Inc., a Franklin, Tenn.-based renewable fuels marketing company.