Cellulosic Ethanol Producer Draws $76 Million Grant from Energy Department
ATLANTA --– The U.S. Department of Energy announced that Range Fuels Inc., a Colorado-based cellulosic ethanol company, will receive federal funding to build Georgia's first wood-based cellulosic ethanol plant in Treutlen County.
"Today’s announcement is more great news for our state's effort to encourage bio-fuels developed from home-grown products," said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
DOE will commit up to $76 million in federal funds over the next four years. The initial plant will produce about 40 million gallons of ethanol a year and 9 million gallons of methanol, and create approximately 69 jobs for the area. The company said that when combined with other plants to follow, Range will have the capacity to produce over 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year in Georgia.
"Our technological leadership, Georgia's abundant supply of waste wood material and their great stewardship of their forest lands, combined with our ability to quickly scale to commercial size, differentiated us from the competition,” said Range Fuels CEO Mitch Mandich.
While most domestic ethanol production requires corn as a feedstock, Range Fuels' proprietary process does not. The Department of Energy grant specifically required the use of non-food feedstocks. The company's technology transforms otherwise useless products, such as wood chips, into ethanol through a thermo-chemical conversion process. The company's system, K2, uses a two-step process to convert the feedstock to a synthesis gas and then converts the gas to ethanol using a catalysis process.
The K2 system is modular, providing easy adaptation to a wide variety of situations. The systems can be located near the feed source, reducing transportation costs to the plant. Georgia's forests can produce close to 2 billion gallons of ethanol a year from wood waste material on a renewable and sustainable basis, and the company envisions plants throughout Georgia.
The grant was announced at a press conference hosted by Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.
"Range Fuels will play a critical role in helping to bring cellulosic ethanol to market and teaching us how we can produce it in a more cost-effective manner," Bodman said. "Ultimately, success in producing inexpensive cellulosic ethanol could be the key to eliminating our nation's addiction to oil."
Gov. Perdue has introduced legislation this year that would exempt sales taxes on the purchase of materials and equipment used in the construction of biofuel facilities in Georgia.