Environmental Engineering Reference
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capital cost of cellulosic biorefineries, which are two to three times more
than corn ethanol plants. But these costs are expected to come down sig-
nificantly in several years. A cellusosic biorefinery requires a large amount
of expensive equipment, but as process improvements occur less expen-
sive equipment should be required.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is helping six firms build cellulosic
biorefineries with grants totaling about $385 million. When fully opera-
tional, the six plants will produce more than 130 million gallons of cel-
lulosic ethanol a year. DOE is also investing $375 million into three new
Bioenergy Research Centers to speed up the development of cellulosic
ethanol and other biofuels.
POET LLC of Sioux Falls, SD, is planning a 125-million-gallon-a-year
biorefinery in Emmetsburg, Iowa. POET is one of several companies pur-
suing the production of cellulosic ethanol using enzymatic hydrolysis to
break down the cellulose and produce sugars. This process will be aided
greatly from the development of genetically modified enzymes and other
microorganisms from Verenium Corporation and Mascoma Corporation
in Cambridge, MA. They have developed microorganisms that generate
enzymes that both break down the biomass cell walls, exposing the sug-
ars, and ferment the sugar into ethanol. This would be a major cost sav-
ings since it typically costs 10-15 times as much for the enzymes used in
the fermentation of cellulosic material that those used in corn-based etha-
nol production.
In 2007 Verenium began work on a demonstration-scale cellulosic
ethanol plant in Jennings, LA. The plant is expected to have an output of
1.4 million gallons a year, using sugar cane bagasse and a special breed of
energy cane as feedstocks.
A commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant is also planned by
Mascoma. It will use wood chips and other nonfood agricultural crops and
be located in Michigan. Dynamotive Energy Systems has an agreement
with Mitsubishi on a series of projects, including licensing Dynamotive's
technology for small plants. Based in Vancouver, Canada this cellulosic
ethanol company has offices in the U.S., U.K. and Argentina.
Other companies, such as Genencor and Novozymes are providing
producers with enzymes that are genetically modified to extract the sug-
ars from a variety of biomass feedstocks. Verenium, Mascoma, Cargill,
DuPont and Archer Daniels Midland have received DOE grants totaling
$23 million for improved microorganisms. Codon Devices and Agrivida
are working on the development of corn varieties using genetically engi-
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