This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 07, 2007

Range Fuels Breaks Ground on Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

Range Fuels, Inc. broke ground on November 6th on one of the nation's first commercial cellulosic ethanol plants. Range Fuels is one of six companies selected by DOE for financial support in building commercial cellulosic ethanol plants and is the first to break ground. The plant will be located near the town of Soperton, Georgia, and will draw on gasification technology to convert wood and wood waste from Georgia's pine forests and mills into 20 million gallons of ethanol per year. Construction of the first phase is expected to be completed next year. DOE will provide $50 million in support of the first phase of construction and will provide another $26 million for the first expansion phase, which will increase its capacity to 30 million gallons of ethanol per year. The company plans to eventually expand the plant to an annual capacity of 100 million gallons of ethanol per year.

The Soperton plant will be fueled with wood and wood waste to minimize its reliance on fossil fuels. And in a state that's currently racked with drought, the Soperton plant will consume only one-quarter of the water consumed by today's corn ethanol plants. Range Fuels estimates that Georgia could produce enough cellulosic biomass to support up to two billion gallons of ethanol production using the company's technology. See the Range Fuels press release.

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman attended the groundbreaking ceremony and noted its importance for advancing cost-competitive ethanol produced from non-food biomass sources, an approach crucial for reducing the nation's dependence on petroleum. Over the next four years, DOE intends to invest up to $385 million in six commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol refineries, including the Range Fuels plant as well as facilities to be located in California, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, and Kansas. The six biorefineries will have a combined production capacity exceeding 130 million gallons. See the DOE press release on the groundbreaking, Secretary Bodman's prepared speech for the groundbreaking, the earlier DOE press release on the awards, and the DOE Biomass Program Web site.