Raven Biofuels, Spectrum Energy to convert softwood into fuel

By Susanne Retka Schill | May 09, 2008
Web exclusive posted May 30, 2008 at 3:52 p.m. CST

California-based Raven Biofuels International Corp. announced May 21 it is partnering with British Columbia-based Spectrum Energy to develop cellulosic biorefineries in British Columbia that will convert softwood infested with mountain pine beetle, as well as other biomass into ethanol and high-value furfural chemicals.

Spectrum Energy and Raven Biofuels have submitted a proposal to the provinces' Clean Energy Fund for financial support to proceed with building the province's first cellulosic ethanol refinery. Spectrum Energy was involved in building four lumber facilities in British Columbia and will contribute its forest industry experience to the project. The pine beetle infestation is quickly killing pine forests that cover an area the size of Texas, containing enough biomass to produce over a billion gallons of biofuels.

Plans include building a 10 MMgy plant with potential to scale up. Under the British Columbia New Energy Plan, the province has a mandate to blend 5 percent of its transportation fuel with ethanol by 2010. However, currently the province doesn't have a commercial-scale ethanol production.

Raven Biofuels has a 6 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant under development in India with plans to use sugarcane bagasse as the feedstock. The plant, which will be engineered by British-based Mott MacDonald Group Ltd., has received essential permits and is nearing completion of fundraising, according to a company spokesman.

In March Raven Biofuels and Pure Energy Corp. of Paramus, N.J., announced a merger. Pure Energy is adding its 14 years in developing a cellulosic ethanol platform to the Raven Biofuels effort. Raven Biofuels projects it will have 100 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol in production within four years. The company says its proprietary technology produces ethanol and high value specialty chemicals using a two-stage dilutive acid hydrolysis process, which will reduce the production cost of ethanol below $1 per gallon.