Mascoma Corporation To Build Switchgrass Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

Mascoma Corporation, a leader in advanced low-carbon energy biotechnology, last week announced that it intends to establish an operating facility producing cellulosic ethanol utilizing switchgrass as feedstock. The company says that this facility will be the first in the country.

Mascoma and The University of Tennessee plan to jointly build and operate the five million gallon per year cellulosic biorefinery.

The business partnership and plans for the facility are a result of Tennessee Governor Bredesen’s Biofuels Initiative, a research and business model designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil and provide significant economic and environmental benefits for Tennessee’s farmers and communities.

According to the company, the project represents one of the largest commitments of capital yet made in support of the cellulosic biofuels industry. It includes a $40 million investment in facility construction and $27 million for R&D activities, including incentives for farmers to grow switchgrass funded by the State and The University of Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture will support the establishment of switchgrass as an energy crop. Initial research conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture indicates that Tennessee is capable of generating over one billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass alone.

The facility is complemented by research efforts at nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In June, Oak Ridge was awarded $125 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund the Bioenergy Science Center, a research collaborative to address fundamental science and technology challenges to commercially producing cellulosic ethanol.

The large-scale demonstration facility will be located in Monroe County, Tennessee. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2007 and the facility will be operational in 2009.

In July 2007, Mascoma announced plans to build a biorefinery using wood as a feedstock.

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