Process and Operations

This ethanol’s not from corn


Aug 03, 2007

Range Fuels in July secured a construction permit from the state of Georgia to build a plant that can produce ethanol from wood waste. It would be the country's first commercial-scale plant producing cellulosic ethanol, a renewable fuel produced from non-edible crops or agricultural waste.

Government officials hope it will reduce the nation's dependence on oil without impacting the supply of corn, which is far and away the main source of ethanol in the U.S.

Current government proposals call for 36 billion gallons a year of domestic ethanol by 2022. But experts say it will be hard for corn ethanol production to surpass 15 billion gallons a year because production will be limited by available land, according to the Wall Street Journal. Plus the diversion of corn could severely impact the food supply.

Cellulosic ethanol can be made from plants such as switchgrass and corn stover, although the Range Fuels plant will use wood waste. These processing plants are costly to build, so the Dept. of Energy is considering a $76 million grant to help fund the project. Range Fuels hopes to break ground on the plant this summer in Treutlen County, Ga.

Range Fuels is funded by Khosla Ventures LLC, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm specializing in alternative energy investments, according to the Journal.