USDA Guarantees an $80 Million Loan to a Georgia Biorefinery
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on March 3 that it recently finalized its guarantee of an $80 million loan to Range Fuels, Inc., which is building a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery near Soperton, Georgia. The loan by AgSouth Farm Credit is being guaranteed through the USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It is the first such USDA assurance to a commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant. The agency had announced its conditional guarantee in January 2009. DOE is also providing $50 million to support the initial construction of the Range Fuels plant and has agreed to provide another $26 million to support an eventual expansion of the plant.
The plant will employ heat, pressure, and steam to convert wood chips into synthetic gas, or syngas. The syngas will then be cleaned and passed over a catalyst to yield cellulosic biofuels, such as ethanol and methanol. Construction of the first phase of the plant is expected to be completed in March, with production commencing by June. When fully operational, the plant is expected to produce an estimated 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, mostly from Georgia pine harvested from the surrounding area. USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program promotes the development of new and emerging technologies for the production of advanced biofuels, defined as fuels derived from renewable biomass other than corn kernel starch. See the USDA press release, the Range Fuels press releases, the Biorefinery Assistance Program Web site, and the technology description on the Range Fuels Web site.