AC-PABE to receive part of DOE $114 million for small-scale biorefinery projects

Published: Mar 24, 2008 1:23:09 PM
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Harry T. Cullinan

Harry Cullinan

The Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering (AC-PABE) at Auburn University will receive a portion of $114 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for four small-scale biorefineries. The award is part of more than $1 billion DOE has announced within the last year for multi-year biofuels research and development projects.

Building on President Bush's goal to reduce projected U.S. gas consumption by twenty percent by 2017 and make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012, these commercial scale biorefineries will use a wide variety of feedstocks and test novel conversion technologies to provide data necessary to bring online full size, commercial scale biorefineries.

Expected to be operational in four years, the selected small-scale biorefinery projects will produce liquid transportation fuels such as cellulosic ethanol, as well as bio-based chemicals and products used in industrial applications. Combined with an industry cost share, more than $331 million will be invested in these four projects.

These small-scale projects also complement the department's February 2007 announcement of projects selected to receive up to $385 million over four years for the development of six commercial-scale biorefineries. The full-scale biorefineries focus on near-term commercial processes, while the small-scale facilities will experiment with diverse feedstocks using novel processing technologies.

AC-PABE's part of the grant will come through NewPage Corporation, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc. This proposed plant will gasify wood wastes using a Fisher-Tropsch process, yielding diesel fuel. The DoE will provide up to $30 million for the project. Other partners in the plant include TRI; Syntroleum; and the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"We are particularly proud to note that Auburn's AC-PABE is the only university partner among all of the participants in these four projects," said Harry Cullinan, director of AC-PABE. "In addition, our project is one of the first biorefining projects in the U.S. based at an existing pulp mill, and it will lead the way for many more such projects in the future".

Other companies involved in this particular award include ICM Incorporated; Lignol Innovations Inc.; and Pacific Ethanol Inc. Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels.