News | Summer 09

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Cellulosic Projects Moving Forward

Two more wood-based cellulosic ethanol plants have come on line in recent months in Alabama and New York, as the industry continues to expand its roster of pilot and demonstration plants while producers compete with business models based on various conversion technologies, each jockeying for position as a high volume, low-cost leader in the cellulosic ethanol marketplace.

Cellulosic harvesting
Harvesting hybrid poplar in east Oregon

New Hampshire-based Mascoma Corp. in February announced startup production at its plant in Rome, NY, where the facility is capable of producing 200,000 gallons of ethanol annually. Investors in the plant include New York state energy agencies and General Motors, which has provided an undisclosed cash investment. The automaker is also providing fuel evaluation and testing services, and officials are planning events to showcase GM vehicles running on the plant’s fuel.

The Mascoma plant is using wood chips from a local sawmill as feedstock, but there are plans to test other raw materials such as switchgrass, corn stover and bagasse. Mascoma utilizes what it calls a “consolidated bio-processing” technology that uses microbes to hydrolize and ferment cellulose into ethanol.

More recently, Mascoma announced another wood-based cellulosic ethanol plant, this one a venture in Michigan under the name Frontier Renewable Resources, based in Kinross. That facility, scheduled for a 2012 startup, is planning to use low-grade hardwoods within a 150-mile radius as its feedstock.

In Alabama, Gulf Coast Energy’s (GCE) Livingston plant recently made its first E85 sale and shipment to Hoover, Ala., where the city plans on using GCE’s E85 in its fleet of municipal vehicles. The first sale is quite small—100 gallons—but GCE CEO Mark Warner says the transaction may be the first truly commercial cellulosic ethanol sale in the U.S.
According to news reports, Hoover paid $1.55/gal. for the shipment. The GCE E85 product has already been certified by General Motors and approved for use in the company’s flex fuel vehicles.

Gulf Coast Energy uses gasification and FT processes for ethanol production that feature carbon recirculation and heat recovery systems with no designed process vents, making GCE’s plant carbon neutral, according to company officials.

The west Alabama company is currently in the planning and financing stages for three additional plants, one in southeast Tennessee, one near Birmingham (Hoover is in the metro area) and one in south Alabama.
Officials with Range Fuels of Broomfield, Colo., which is building one of the country’s biggest planned cellulosic ethanol plants (100 million gallons annually), recently announced the company has selected Emerson as its automation contractor for the new Soperton, Ga. cellulosic ethanol facility. In addition, Range Fuels announced it has signed an almost $4 million order from India-based Praj Industries for distillation process equipment.

This comes on the heels of a major Range Fuels announcement in February that it had secured an $80 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture funneled through AgSouth Farm Credit to begin construction. Though the plant was delayed from Range Fuels’ initial startup projection of 2009, the Soperton facility is in its first phase of construction, with plans for startup the latter half of 2010.

Range Fuels is using a two-step thermo-chemical conversion process that utilizes a devolatization unit to create syngas that’s pumped through a proprietary catalyst and transformed into mixed alcohols. Though the plant may ultimately use a variety of agricultural byproducts as feedstock, initial production will use wood chips.

In eastern Oregon, ZeaChem’s cellulosic ethanol plant is moving toward construction with the recent announcement of CH2M Hill as the plant’s engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

Construction is set to begin this year, thanks to a recent round of $34 million in funding, and the project remains on target to start up in mid 2010. Plant investors include Valero Energy Corp., the largest petroleum refiner in the U.S.

ZeaChem utilizes a hybrid biochemical and thermo-chemical technology that starts with fractionating biomass and features an acetogenic fermentation process that converts plant sugars to acetic acid and eliminates CO2 as a byproduct. Acetic acid is then converted to an ester that reacts with hydrogen to make ethanol.

ZeaChem’s technology acquires hydrogen by gasifying the lignin residue from the fractionization process, creating a hydrogen-rich syngas that’s separated into hydrogen for ester hydrogenation while the remaining syngas is burned to create steam and power for the overall conversion process.

According to company officials, the net effect of ZeaChem’s hybrid technology is a much higher yield than other conversion technologies—of up to 135 gallons per bone-dry ton.

For initial feedstock, ZeaChem is working with Greenwood Resources in Portland, Ore., which has several hybrid poplar farms in Oregon and Washington.

Resources: ZeaChem, GreenWood Resources, Mascoma, General Motors, Gulf Coast Energy, Range Fuels, Valero Energy Corp.

Colorado Pellet Plants Ramp Up

Colorado’s two pellet manufacturers, Confluence Energy at Kremmling and Rocky Mountain Pellet Co. at Walden, which started up within weeks of each other in the middle of 2008, continue to ramp up production.
Starting with two pellet machines, Confluence Energy within months added a third to boost capacity by 35%, to 120,000 tons a year, in response to “high demand’ for its product. Running four pellet machines from the start, Rocky Mountain in mid-April was operating at about 75% of its rated annual capacity of 150,000 tons, according to Joe Kostelac, President.

Both plants use beetle-kill lodgepole pine for their feedstock, buying logs and chipping them on site. Confluence Energy consumes about 180,000 tons per year; Rocky Mountain about 200,000 tons.

Resources: Confluence Energy, Rocky Mountain Pellet

Pellet Venture Eyes Baton Rouge

Point Bio Energy, LLC wants to build a $100 million pellet plant at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, La., according to the port commission. The plant would procure 800,000 tons annually of softwood and hardwood longwood and chips within a 150-mile radius. The pellets would be shipped to markets overseas.

State forestry management officials, area loggers and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce are supporting the proposal.

Point Bio Energy would like to open the plant late next year on the port’s property in Port Allen.

Resources: Point Bio Energy, LDAF Forestry Mgt

Pellet Group Meets July 26-28

Pellet Fuels Institute will host its 2009 Annual Conference July 26-28 at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The conference includes educational sessions, networking opportunities and social events. Call 703-522-6778.

Resources: Pellet Fuels Institute, 2009 Annual Conference

Brazilian Firm Ships Chips To China

Brazilian company Brazil Biomass and Renewable Energy will begin exporting eucalyptus wood chips to China’s Shandong Bohui Paper Industrial and China Huaguan Group Corp., 20% of which will be used to cogenerate power, with the remainder used for paper. Brazil Biomass exported 50,000 tonnes of pellets to Europe and 50,000 tonnes of wood chips to China last year.

Resources: Int'l Renerable Energy

Energy Collaborative Gains Momentum

California Energy Commission awarded the University of California, Davis, $3 million to coordinate the California Renewable Energy Collaborative The collaborative’s objective is to help California focus on the most promising and cost-effective renewable energy initiatives by assessing resources and technologies; identifying barriers and opportunities that affect commercial success, and regulatory, economic and financial constraints; advising the California Energy Commission on strategic planning for renewable energy development; and disseminating best practices and research findings through Web sites, public forums and other methods.

The four collaboratives being united under the new California Renewable Energy Collaborative include Biomass, Wind, Geothermal and Solar energies. Call 916-654-4989.

Resources: California Energy Commission, University of California, California Renewable Energy Collaborative

Apollo Alliance Launches Campaign

The Apollo Alliance has launched a campaign to restore millions of American jobs with the release of a comprehensive roadmap for rebuilding U.S. manufacturing capacity to meet the clean energy needs of the future. The Apollo Green Manufacturing Action Plan (GreenMAP) lays out aggressive steps to scale up production of American-made clean energy systems and components while making U.S. factories more energy efficient.

“We can’t let the next generation of energy jobs be in oil fields on the other side of the world. Our energy security and economic revitalization depend on creating and keeping good jobs in the U.S.,” says Apollo Alliance Chairman Phil Angelides

Resources: Apollo Alliance

Rollcast Energy Receives Investment

Rollcast Energy announced a $3 million investment by Boston-based Atlantic Power Corp. to support the development of Rollcast’s biomass power projects.

Rollcast was founded in 2005 and has several projects in development, including two projects with executed, long-term power purchase agreements, Loblolly Green Power in South Carolina and Piedmont Green Power as well as Greenway Renewable Power in Georgia. 

Resources: Rollcast Energy, Atlantic Power Corp.

North Carolina Welcomes Pellet Mill

Nature’s Earth Products Inc., based in West Palm Beach, Fla., plans to build a pellet plant in Laurinburg, NC, employing 98. The plant will be housed at the former Eaton building. About $12 million in manufacturing equipment will be installed.

Nature’s Earth Products makes several products, including Feline Pine, a natural-product cat litter; Equine Pine bedding; and Freedom Fuel stove pellets. The new plant will convert sawmill byproduct into stove fuel pellets.

The company received a $196,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund. North Carolina’s Southeast Partnership provided a $25,000 grant.

Resources: Nature’s Earth Products

Roseburg Sticks With Pellet Mill

Roseburg Forest Products will continue its pellet venture following several months of pellet machine operation at its particleboard plant in Dillard, Ore., according to reports.

A used pellet machine was purchased from Western Oregon Wood Products late last year. It began operation in mid-November, producing pellets from Douglas fir.

Resources: Roseburg Forest Products, Western Oregon Wood Products

Biomass Conference Planned In August

An International Conference on Woody Biomass Utilization will be held August 4-5 at the Bost Conference Center, Mississippi State University, Starkville, Miss.

The conference will provide information on the utilization of woody biomass and emerging technologies and processes that can provide boost to the economy through the production of jobs and markets. The conference will focus on successes worldwide, challenges in markets ranging from local markets to world markets, and the benefits to the environment. Visit

Resources: International Conference on Woody Biomass Utilization

Arauco Steps Up As Energy Leader

Chile’s Arauco (Celulosa Arauco y Constitución, S.A.) maintains a longstanding commitment to the full range of values found in its forest resources. The development of electrical-generation projects using renewable resources is an integral part of Arauco’s environmental policy

In addition to meeting its own energy needs, Arauco generates a significant amount of surplus green energy and delivers it to the Chilean power grid (the Central Inter-connect System), helping to reduce the country’s dependence on coal and imported fossil fuels. Currently, Arauco has a total installed generating capacity of 504 MW of electricity, including a surplus of up to 134MW from forest biomass that Arauco can send to the grid, helping to meet the needs of one-half million residential customers.

Three of Arauco’s cogeneration power plants in Chile’s Bio Bio Region—one at its Trupan facility and two at its Nueva Aldea complex—are registered as emission reduction projects within the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

Arauco also has three additional biomass cogeneration projects in different development stages within the CDM registration process that would allow Arauco to increase its reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to approximately 850,000 tonnes of equivalent CO2 a year.

Arauco’s low-emission, forest biomass power generation also delivers a financial dividend. Because the power plants are registered as emission reduction projects within the CDM of the Kyoto Protocol, Arauco is able to sell Certified Emission Reduction credits (CERs, or “carbon credits”) in the international market, based on the GHG reductions realized through the generation of power from biomass instead of from fossil fuels.
In 2008, Arauco was able to offer 255,592 CERs (equivalent to 255,592 annual tonnes of offset CO2). The offer was made through London-based CantorCO2e, a leading carbon-trading broker, and was the world’s first online carbon-creditauction. Email [email protected]

Resources: Arauco

Fantoni Group Builds Cogeneration Plant

Fantoni Group Plant
The Fantoni Group of Osoppo, Italy, a leading board and furniture manufacturer, has completed an investment of 15 million euros to equip its plants with a new cogeneration plant. The newly installed power plant will capture up to 90% of the byproduct heat and cooling water of the new plant and use them in the production process. Completely implemented by Fantoni’s team of engineers and technicians, the plant features an engine provided by Wärtsilä Italia of Trieste: 18 m long, with an overall weight of 370 tons, able to generate an electric power of 17.2 megawatts.

Resources: Fantoni Group

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