Connecticut firm announces cellulosic ethanol plans

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 10, 2008
Web exclusive posted March 24, 2008 at 5:04 p.m. CST

Connecticut cellulosic developers hope to break ground this summer on a 24 MMgy to 50 MMgy waste wood cellulosic ethanol plant. American Energy Holdings and Investments Inc., a subsidiary of American Energy Enterprises Inc., based in Brookfield, Conn., has offered to buy the Century Enterprises/Brass Mill property from the city of New Milford, Conn., and turn it into a cellulosic ethanol plant operated by AEE Distilleries Inc.

AEE Chairman Christopher Brown said the company is completing agreements with two biotechnology science companies. "We've been in meetings to unofficially start the permitting process," he added. "We have a pledge of $75 million from a green ethanol group." Brown declined to name the group, but added that it will mostly be an equity investment, with a financing instrument included. The pledge covers a large share of the estimated $110 million total cost. "We want to do this as a private business," Brown stressed, adding that the group wants to prove cellulosic ethanol's viability without relying on government grants. In 2005, Brown co-founded American Energy Enterprises, along with Nicholas M. Schmidt and Greg Chickneas.

AEE is building its process upon an old patent that was never used, Brown said. The process will use an acid pretreatment along with a microbial-enzymatic conversion process to make ethanol. Design plans include making the facility's energy self-sustaining with solar and wind power. In addition, the lignin coproduct used to generate 5 megawatts to 7 megawatts of electricity will be sold into the grid.

The facility will be built on the Brownfield site of the abandoned Brass Mill near New Milford, Conn. Vacant for more than two decades, the city is cleaning up industrial contamination at the site and in the building. AEE wants to break ground this summer on new construction as the remediation in the 300,000 square foot building is completed. The 72-acre site comes with grandfathered water rights from a nearby river, Brown said. Five spurs from the railroad will connect the ethanol plant to both feedstocks and markets.

AEE is in the process of acquiring five filling stations to dispense E85 in the region, Brown said. Initially, the company will ship ethanol from the Midwest to build an E85 market, until AEE's production comes on line the end of 2009 or early 2010.