Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cellulosic ethanol: A fuel for the future?

Range Fuels has announced that it has received a permit to build an ethanol production plant in rural Georgia that uses wood chips as its feedstock. It plans to break ground on the plant this summer. The plant will gather wood scraps from the logging industry and process it to make ethanol.

Cellulosic ethanol processes are supposed to be more efficient than making it from corn. It has less intensive farming needs, and can be derived from a wide range of biomass sources.

Their website describes a simple two-step technology of converting biomass (all plant and plant-derived material) into a gas using heat, pressure and steam. The synthetic gas is converted, in the second step, into a liquid ethanol using a catalyst.

In Michigan Macsoma is working on a similar project.

Making ethanol from the cellulose in agricultural and forestry waste rather than corn produces less greenhouse gases, according to environmental groups. An NRDC study found that, on average, corn-based ethanol reduces greenhouse gas pollution by 18 percent for every gallon of gasoline displaced.

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