WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it has selected two small-scale cellulosic biorefinery projects to receive up to $40 million over the next five years. Flambeau River Biofuels in Park Falls, Wis., and Verenium Biofuels of Jennings, La., were selected in the final round of DOE’s competitive small-scale biorefinery solicitation, under which seven other projects have been selected this year. These small biorefineries will convert non-edible cellulosic biomass, such as wood and agricultural wastes, into renewable fuels. The nine selected biorefinery projects will receive a total of $240 million in DOE funding, subject to appropriations, over the next five fiscal years. Combined with industry cost share, more than $735 million will be invested in these projects.
The facility for Flambeau River Biofuels will be co-located with a pulp and paper mill owned and operated by Flambeau River Papers and will convert wood and forest residues into 6 million gallons per year of sulfur-free diesel fuels and waxes. The facility will gasify the waste wood and pass it through a catalytic process known as Fischer-Tropsch, which converts the hot gas into liquid fuels. As a side benefit, the gasification facility will provide at least 1 trillion Btu of waste heat to the pulp and paper mill each year. The project team includes five universities, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and others.
In contrast, Verenium Biofuels is going it alone on a project to convert sugarcane residues, wood product residues, other agricultural wastes, and dedicated energy crops into 1.5 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. The facility will use pretreatments and enzymes to free the sugars from the biomass, and the sugars will then be fermented into ethanol. Studies at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory have found that cellulosic ethanol production consumes as little as 10 percent of the fossil energy needed to produce conventional gasoline and has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 86 percent.