Bioenergy

After Slow Start, BlueFire Rebrands Itself

Remember BlueFire Ethanol? The company made a lot of headlines back in 2006 and 2007 during the ethanol boom. In an effort to re-brand itself as a more diverse company, It’s now BlueFire Renewables.

BlueFire uses concentrated sulfuric acid to break down wood scraps, paper and agricultural residues into sugars. Those sugars are then turned into ethanol, biodiesel and jet fuel. BlueFire is changing its name to relfect the diversity of fuels it can produce from the process. CEO Arnold Klann says they want to “avoid confusion with other ethanol producers.”

As part of its more diversified strategy, BlueFire Renewables partnered with the algae company Solazyme to provide it with sugars for growing algae.

Unfortunately, BlueFire’s original plans haven’t happened on schedule. The company is not producing the amount of fuel it was claiming it would back in 2007.

BlueFire was supposed to have a 19 million-gallon-per-year (mgpy) cellulosic ethanol facility up and running by 2009. Instead, that plant is still in the engineering phase, according to the company. It’s now working on building a 3.9 mgpy facility in California.

The delays were caused by a poor investment climate, technical hurdles in getting to commercial scale and a slow loan guarantee process through the Department of Energy. BlueFire did just get approval from the DOE to go ahead with Phase II of its bigger project. If all goes well, the project could be operating sometime in 2011.