Trillium FiberFuels gets grant for cellulosic technology

Posted August 14, 2009, at 8:10 a.m. CST

Trillium FiberFuels has been awarded a $750,000 grant to commercialize its technology for creating fuel-grade ethanol from straw and other biomass. The U.S. DOE announced the award, which is a part of the Small Business Innovation Research Program. This award is a phase II continuation that follows Trillium's successful completion of phase I during 2008 and early 2009. The SBIR process is highly competitive, and Trillium received the only phase II DOE award in the Oregon this year. Trillium's technology improves the ethanol yield from biomass by up to 40 percent by utilizing xylose, a common sugar that is not fermentable by brewing yeast. The two-year project will transition the process from laboratory scale to a pilot plant.

Xylose constitutes roughly one-third of the available sugar in biomass, so efficient utilization is essential to good process economics. While most companies are hoping to exploit genetically engineered microorganisms to ferment xylose, Trillium's unique approach uses an existing industrial enzyme to convert xylose into a sugar that is fermentable by brewing yeast. This makes Trillium's solution ready to scale and robust in the industrial environment.

"We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to take this technology to the pilot plant scale," said company President Chris Beatty. "We are very appreciative of the DOE and those that have helped us along the way including companies like C.H. Murphy/Clark-Ullman and West Salem Machinery and organizations like OSU, ONAMI, and Lane County Economic Development. We look forward to building stronger alliances with these organizations and others as we move toward production processing."