DOE announces cellulosic ethanol grants

By Dave Nilles | February 09, 2007
The U.S. DOE today announced a round of grants expected to aid in the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol production. Six projects received funds aimed at developing cellulose biorefineries.

The grants are designed to help ethanol producers with the upfront capital costs associated with constructing cellulosic plants. Recipients were eligible for up to $100 million and must show a 60 percent industry/40 percent government cost share.

The DOE listed six recipients:

--Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas LLC received $76 million for a proposed plant in Colwich, Kan. The facility will thermochemically and biochemically produce 11.4 MMgy of ethanol from 700 tons per day of corn stover, wheat straw, milo stubble, switchgrass and other feedstocks. The project is expected to start construction in late 2008. Abengoa is also building a pilot-scale cellulose facility in York, Neb.

--ALICO Inc. received $33 million for a 13.9 MMgy project in LaBelle, Fla. The project is also proposed to produce electric power, hydrogen and ammonia from 770 tons per day of yard, wood and vegetative wastes. Construction is slated to begin in 2008 with start-up in 2010.

--BlueFire Ethanol Inc. received up to $40 million for a proposed facility in southern California. The facility will be sited on an existing landfill and produce about 19 MMgy of ethanol from 700 tons per day of sorted green waste and wood waste from landfills. Construction is slated to begin in 2008.

--Broin Companies received up to $80 million for its Project Liberty proposal. The company plans to add cellulosic ethanol production to its existing corn dry mill in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

--Iogen Biorefinery Partners received up to $80 million to build its proposed 18 MMgy facility in Shelley, Idaho. Iogen already operates a demonstration-scale wheat straw-to-ethanol facility in Canada.

--Range Fuels was awarded up to $76 million for a proposed project near Soperton, Ga. The 40 MMgy ethanol plant would also produce 9 MMgy of methanol from 1,200 tons per day of wood residues and wood-based energy crops. Construction on the Khosla Ventures-backed project is expected to begin this year.

The DOE grant may be the kickstart needed for Broin's $200 million project, which was announced in late 2006. The company plans to convert the company's existing 50 MMgy Emmetsburg, Iowa, corn dry mill plant to also handle cellulosic feedstocks—mainly corn stover. The expansion is slated to take approximately 30 months and increase the facility's capacity to 125 MMgy of ethanol. "We are humbled and excited to be working with the Department of Energy on a project of such national significance," said Jeff Broin, CEO of Broin Companies. "Our goal is to bring cellulosic ethanol to commercial viability by the end of the decade in order to reduce global warming, revitalize the rural economy and lessen our country's dependence on foreign oil."

The DOE is also developing a loan guarantee program for cellulosic projects as authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

"The diversity of feedstocks associated with the projects receiving these grants highlights the opportunity that exists for ethanol production in every corner of the country," said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. "Today, ethanol is produced from grain. Tomorrow, it will be produced from grain, wheat straw, wood chips, switchgrass and other material of which we have yet to imagine. The new horizon for the U.S. ethanol industry is wide open and full of opportunity."

Dave Nilles is Online Editor for Ethanol Producer Magazine. Reach him at or (701) 373-0636.

Posted: 1:52 p.m. CST Wednesday, February 28, 2007