Mascoma advances plans for Michigan plant

By Kris Bevill | June 02, 2008
Web exclusive posted July 3, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. CST

Boston-based cellulosic technology company Mascoma Corp. announced it has entered into strategic relationships to advance its efforts to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Michigan.

Mascoma first announced in July 2007 its plans to focus on Michigan as the home of its first commercial-scale facility. The company said Michigan was selected because of its vast sustainable forests and its availability of agricultural materials.

Angela Bonarrigo, spokeswoman for Mascoma, said an exact location for the proposed 40 MMgy facility has not yet been decided, but has been narrowed down to two possible sites in Chippewa County. The county is located in the woodsy Upper Peninsula of Michigan and has a total population of approximately 38,000 people, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Bonarrigo said one particular parcel in the county is a strong contender and engineering studies are being conducted to determine the feasibility of constructing a plant in that location. If determined useable, the land will be acquired through a land swap under negotiation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Bonarrigo said Mascoma expects the commercial facility to be operational in 2012.

James Epolito, president and chief executive officer of Michigan's Economic Development Corp., said, "This new facility will mean more jobs in our agriculture, timber and manufacturing industries while benefiting our environment and energy security as a nation."

State legislation was recently passed that offers added incentive for Mascoma to develop a facility in Michigan. The Center of Energy Excellence legislation needs only to be signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm before Mascoma can become eligible to receive a $15 million grant to become the state's first Center of Energy Excellence.

Mascoma has also entered into relationships with several other Michigan-based companies and institutions in order to further its capabilities. Marquette-based natural resource company JM Longyear has agreed to offer its project development and natural resource experience as a complement to Mascoma's technological expertise.

Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University have teamed with Mascoma on research projects. MSU will focus on pretreatment technology for cellulosic ethanol production and explore feedstocks to be used at the biorefinery. MTU will contribute its knowledge of sustainable forestry practices as well as analyze biofuels produced at the site.

Earlier this year, Mascoma announced an equity investment by General Motors Corp. in which GM agreed to evaluate fuels and other materials produced by Mascoma for engine applications. GM is headquartered in Detroit.