Cellulosic ethanol demo plant begins production

By Lisa Gibson
Posted January 20, 2010, at 8:53 a.m. CST

DuPont-Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC and its partner Genera Energy LLC will hold a grand opening ceremony on Jan. 29 for their demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Vonore, Tenn.

The 74,000-square-foot facility has the capacity to produce 250,000 gallons of ethanol from corncobs, switching to a 100 percent switchgrass feedstock over the course of the next year, according to DDCE. The companies are working toward a commercial operation date for the facility in 2012.

It is one of the first cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants in the country and is the first to use both agricultural residues and energy crops as feedstocks, according to DDCE. Genera Energy, wholly owned by the University of Tennessee, will work on a switchgrass supply chain for the plant, harvesting from its current 2,700 acres of the crop, expanding to around 7,000 acres in April, according to Genera President and CEO Kelly Tiller. Genera's crops will be more than enough to supply the plant, Tiller said, adding that the company and its farmer-controlled Tennessee Biomass Supply Co-op. will handle the entire feedstock operation with contracted farmers for the DDCE plant.

Genera received a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. DOE and USDA to research and improve the varieties of switchgrass in cooperation with Ceres and DDCE. In addition, Genera was awarded a $4.9 million DOE grant to optimize removal, transportation and storage, including in-field chopping systems instead of baling.