We knew it was coming. Vinod Khosla has finally made a bold move to back up industry-wide speculation that cellulosic ethanol would soon emerge as the next phase in ethanol production. The surprise is that wood would be the feedstock of choice given the vast headstart of corn-based biorefineries in the country and the obvious synergy of basing corn stover conversion technologies near sugar fermentation plants.
However, the high energy potential of wood cellulose, the ready availability of cheap waste, and the search for a renaissance of forestry-based industries makes the announcement a welcome one to the "nation's woodpile" in the southeastern states.
Here is an abridged version of the press release issued by Range Fuels, Inc. (formerly Kergy, Inc.)...
Khosla's Range Fuels to build woody cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia
Range Fuels, Inc., a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced it will build its first ethanol plant in Treutlen County, Georgia. Founded by Menlo Park, California-based Khosla Ventures, Range Fuels estimates that this plant – combined with others to follow – will have the capacity to produce over 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year. The first plant will create over 70 new jobs for the area.
Wood waste from the state’s millions of acres of indigenous Georgia Pine will be the main source of biomass for the ethanol production.
While most domestic ethanol production requires corn as a feedstock, Range Fuels' proprietary process does not. It also completely eliminates the use of enzymes, which have been an expensive component of traditional cellulosic ethanol production. Its innovative and proprietary technology transforms otherwise useless products such as wood chips, agricultural wastes, grasses, and cornstalks as well as hog manure, municipal garbage, sawdust and paper pulp into ethanol through a thermo-chemical conversion process. The company's system, K2, uses a two step process to convert biomass to a synthetic gas and from there, convert the gas to ethanol.
“The state of Georgia has provided us with an excellent opportunity to use its abundant renewable natural resources to help solve fuel issues for the country,” said Mitch Mandich, Range Fuels CEO. “Thanks to Georgia’s environmentally sensitive stewardship of its forests for the past 50 years, Range Fuels can take what is traditionally considered a waste product, and turn it into a source of transportation fuel.”
“The production of cellulosic ethanol represents not only a step toward true energy diversity for the country, but a very cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels. It is advanced weaponry in the war on oil,” said Vinod Khosla, managing partner of Khosla Ventures, who recently told a Reuters Global Biofuels Summit that he could see cellulosic fuel prices sinking to $1 per gallon within 10 years.
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