November 25, 2006

Colusa Completes Successful Rice Straw Harvest

Agricultural waste is plentiful in many parts of the U.S. that do not produce corn. Each kind of waste is a potential source of biomass for conversion. Some companies are developing vertical specializations focused on a certain biostock to harvest, deliver, and biorefine into biofuels and other marketable products.

One such company is Colusa Biomass Energy Corporation (CBEC) named after a rice-producing county north of Sacramento, California. In a recent press release, Colusa announced that they have achieved better than expected yields from their harvesting of rice straw - the waste leftover from rice cultivation. They will break ground in 2007 on a biorefinery to process the rice straw into ethanol and other by-products.

There is a strong need in this state to convert rice straw because farmers are precluded by law from burning it in the fields, which was the customary practice. California produces about 18% of the rice grown in the United States; about 550,000 acres annually. Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Missouri also produce large quantities of rice. By focusing on this one feedstock, Colusa is developing an expertise that is marketable in many regions of the world - significantly in Asia.

Here is the content of their press release...

Colusa Biomass Energy Completes an Industry First - Waste Rice Straw Harvest Preparing for Ethanol

Colusa Biomass Energy Corporation (CLME.PK) today announced the successful completion of its first-ever rice straw harvesting operation in Colusa County, California. Field Operations Manager Rick Nannen said, "Yields of rice straw were very significantly higher than expected, showing that our specialized equipment and field practices result in highly efficient collection of biomass."

CBEC announced that it had collected 6,800 tons of rice straw in a truncated harvest period of 5 weeks, with an average yield per acre harvested of over 4 tons/acre, compared to previous assumptions of 2.5 tons/acre. These higher yields significantly reduced the amount of acres necessary to be harvested in order to reach CBEC's target volume of rice straw.

CEO Tom Bowers said, "Our average cash cost for collection of rice straw in this harvest was $9.44 per ton. In the full scale harvest we will undertake in 2007 we are confident that total cost (including capital cost) will not exceed $24.00 per ton. This places us very significantly below the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's benchmark for biomass gathering costs of $30.00 per ton." Rick Nannen added, "Our process gathers rice straw without baling it. Avoiding the baling step significantly reduces the cost of gathering biomass."

In the 2007 harvest CBEC intends to undertake a full-scale rice-straw harvest operation using 5 forage harvester units, over the full 10 weeks of the harvest. This full scale operation will produce over 70,000 tons of rice straw, which will be processed into ethanol in CBEC's biorefinery, on which it is expected to begin construction in 2007.

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