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Commercialization is set for a cellulose-to-ethanol process

By Chemical Engineering |

What is billed as the first commercial-scale plant to produce ethanol from cellulosic feed will be built in Treutlen County, Georgia, by Range Fuels, Inc. (Broomfield, Colo.; edlinks.chemengonline.com/6898-541). The company received a construction permit from the State of Georgia last month and will shortly break ground for the plant. Scheduled for completion sometime in 2008, the plant will initially produce 20,000 gal/yr of ethanol and small amounts of other alcohols from forest wood waste. Ultimately the plant will have a capacity of 100-million gal/yr. Wood chips will be pyrolyzed with steam to produce a synthesis gas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. A proprietary catalyst will convert the gas to ethanol, plus some methanol and small quantities of butanol and propanol. Mitch Mandich, CEO, says the advantages of the process over enzymatic routes are that it is less expensive and can handle a wide variety of feeds. He says the first plant will have costs similar to those for corn ethanol, but expects to lower the costs in the future. The project is one of six selected to receive grants totaling up to $385 million from the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE; CE, April 2007, p. 24). All involve demonstration plants to produce ethanol from non-food…
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