Cellulosic Charge

Advanced biofuel is getting closer to becoming a reality
By Bryan Sims | July 25, 2011

With institutional lending and venture capital investment appearing to show signs of reemergence from the economic recession, coupled with a declared commitment by the U.S. government to support advanced biofuels development, momentum is certainly on the side for cellulosic ethanol developers as many achieved significant milestones this year in their respective projects.

BlueFire Renewables Inc. announced it had completed initial site preparation in June for its 19 MMgy cellulosic ethanol project near Fulton, Calif., which will utilize wood waste in the region as feedstock. Century Construction completed clearing and grubbing, placed geo-grid and fabric across the site, brought the site to grade level, and installed drainage structures prior to completion of final rough grading. Grass and mulch were applied to establish the necessary growth for erosion control until plant construction begins.

“With support from the County of Itawanba and the City of Fulton and excellent work done by Century Construction, the Fulton site is ready for facility construction,” says Arnold Klann, CEO of BlueFire Renewables, adding that the firm is working on “multiple pathways” for financing the project, including a pending loan guarantee application through the USDA.

Coskata Inc. issued a letter of intent with Fagen Inc. and Harris Group Inc. for engineering, procurement and construction services for the construction of Coskata’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant located in Boligee, Ala., using wood biomass as feedstock.

“We are confident that together with Fagen and Harris Group, we will demonstrate the value potential and long-term benefits of the Coskata technology in this exciting project,” says William Roe, CEO of Coskata.

Nevada, Iowa, is the future home of DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC’s 50 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility, adjacent to Lincolnway Energy LLC’s corn-ethanol plant. Dried cobs, stalks and leaves left after grain harvesting will be used as feedstock. DDCE is successfully producing cellulosic ethanol at its demonstration facility in Vonore, Tenn., and is scaling up the process to globally license its end-to-end production system. In addition to corn stover, DDCE’s process technology is capable of converting other cellulosic biomass, such as wheat or switchgrass, into ethanol.

Finally, the U.S. DOE made its first conditional commitment for a loan guarantee to Poet LLC, a $105 million loan guarantee to help cover the cost of its 25 MMgy corn cob-to-ethanol facility, dubbed Project Liberty, at Emmetsberg, Iowa. Construction of the facility, which will be co-located with Poet’s 57 MMgy corn-based facility in Emmetsberg, is expected to begin in August, according to the DOE. Production is slated to begin in May 2013.

“Projects like [Project Liberty] show that our investments in next generation biofuels are paying off,” according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This project is an important step in the Obama Administration’s effort to break our nation’s unsustainable dependence on foreign oil and move toward a clean energy economy.” 

—Bryan Sims