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

January 29, 2008

DOE to Invest $114 Million in Small-Scale Cellulosic Biorefineries

Photo of a technician kneeling in front of a complex tangle of pipes, pumps, tanks, and electrical controls and gauges.

Some of the new small-scale biorefineries should resemble the Bioethanol Pilot Plant, a fermentation-based facility at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Credit: David Parsons

DOE announced on January 29 that it will invest $114 million in four small-scale biorefinery projects over four years. These small-scale biorefineries will use a wide range of feedstocks to test conversion technologies for the production of cellulosic ethanol. The new biorefineries—to be built in Colorado, Missouri, Oregon, and Wisconsin—are expected to produce about 2.5 million gallons a year of ethanol, as compared to the 20-30 million gallons that a full-sized facility can produce. The news follows the February 2007 announcement that DOE was investing $385 million for the development of six commercial-scale biorefineries. The six full-scale biorefineries are employing near-term commercial processes, while the four small-scale facilities will experiment with diverse feedstocks and novel processing technologies.

Lignol Innovations, Inc. plans to build a biorefinery at the site of an existing refinery in Commerce City, Colorado, to convert wood residues into ethanol using a unique solvent-based pretreatment technology. In St. Joseph, Missouri, ICM Incorporated will convert agricultural residues, switchgrass, and sorghum into ethanol using both fermentation and thermochemical processes. Pacific Ethanol, Inc. plans to convert agricultural and forest product residues into ethanol at the site of its existing corn ethanol plant in Boardman, Oregon, using BioGasol's process that combines fermentation with an anaerobic digester. And in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, paper manufacturer NewPage Corporation will gasify wood wastes and convert them to diesel fuel using the Fischer-Tropsch catalytic process. See the DOE press release, BioGasol's description of its process, and the DOE Biomass Program's description of the Fischer-Tropsch process.