One of six companies selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for financial support in building a commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, Range Fuels, Soperton, Ga., has broken ground for the first plant, which will be located in Treutlen County, Ga.
The plant will use wood and wood waste from Georgia’s pine forests and mills as its feedstock and will have the capacity to produce over 100 million gallons of ethanol per year. Construction of the first 20 million-gallon-per-year phase is expected to be completed this year.
At the Soperton plant, production of cellulosic ethanol will be completed using a process that converts wood chips and other non-food products to ethanol using a system called “K2.” The system employs a two-step thermo-chemical conversion process: the first step converts the biomass to synthesis gas, and the second step converts the gas to ethanol.
As part of its $76 million technology investment agreement with the DOE, Range Fuels will receive $50 million based upon the project construction schedule for the first 20 million-gallon-per-year phase of its Soperton Plant. The remainder of the grant, $26 million, will be provided for construction of the next phase of the project.
Range Fuels intends to focus on green, renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gases and promote energy independence. The technology is self-sustaining and uses the same feedstock to make ethanol as it does to operate its plant, minimizing its reliance on fossil fuels and the consequent production of greenhouse gases.