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

January 21, 2009

USDA Guarantees an $80 Million Loan for a Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on January 16 that it has approved its first-ever loan guarantee to a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. Range Fuels, Inc. will apply the loan to the construction of its plant near Soperton, Georgia, that will convert wood chips into ethanol through a high-temperature gasification process. The loan guarantee falls under the Biorefinery Assistance Program that was authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. AgSouth Farm Credit, a leader in agricultural and rural loans and part of Farm Credit Services, will be the lead lending agency on the loan. The first phase of the Range Fuels plant is currently under construction, with production expected to begin in 2010. See the press releases from USDA and Range Fuels.

A number of companies are making progress on converting non-food biomass materials into transportation fuels. POET, the largest ethanol producer in the world, announced on January 12 that its pilot plant in Scotland, South Dakota, is now producing ethanol from corn cobs at a rate of 20,000 gallons per year. The company claims the startup of the pilot facility has gone smoothly, offering promise for the planned construction of a commercial facility, starting next year. Verenium Corporation is also planning to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, with construction slated to begin later this year in Highlands County, Florida. Starting in 2011, the completed facility is expected to convert grasses into 36 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. Verenium is currently building a demonstration-scale plant in Jennings, Louisiana, with financial support from DOE. In addition, Syntroleum Corporation notes that construction has begun on a facility in Geismer, Louisiana, that will convert animal fats and greases into renewable diesel fuel and jet fuel. Syntroleum has joined with Tyson Foods to form Dynamic Fuels LLC, which plans to start up the new plant in early 2010. See the press releases from POET, Verenium, and Syntroleum.