Mascoma signs $80M Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Deal with DOE in Kinross, Michigan

Mascoma, the renewable fuels company, will receive up to $80 million in Department of Energy funding for construction of a commercial-scale hardwood cellulosic ethanol facility.

Mascoma hasn’t been mentioned on for quite a while, probably since there hasn’t been much news since their scientific breakthrough in 2009 (see Mascoma Announces Major Research Advance for Cellulosic Ethanol).  Over the last few years, and a little under the radar, the company has been steadily ramping up on the application of their proprietary cellulosic ethanol process, consolidated bioprocessing (CBP).

The $80M will be used in a cost-sharing arrangement for the construction of a commercial-scale, 20-million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol facility in Kinross, Michigan. Construction is slated to begin in 3-6 months with completion around the end of 2013. The facility itself will actually be run by a joint venture of Mascoma and Valero Energy Corporation (which is also fronting the balance of the construction project’s bill, along with the State of Michigan).

“Biofuels hold great potential, not only for reducing our dependence on foreign oil, but also for creating new jobs and economic opportunities for America’s rural communities. The cooperative agreement between Mascoma and the DOE will enable the construction of a new commercial-scale advanced biofuels facility, and the only one using CBP technology. It is indeed a significant step towards meeting America’s energy challenges with cost-effective and sustainable bioprocesses.”

-Valerie Reed, Ph.D., Acting Biomass Program Manager, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, of the DOE.

If you’re keen to understand the technical details of how Mascoma turns wood into ethanol, see this earlier post on how Mascoma’s cellulosic ethanol process works. Or, to put it simply: Mascoma developed a proprietary process that eliminates several costly steps in the production of cellulosic ethanol, consolidating them into a simpler, single batch process.

The new facility will finally put Mascoma’s technology into practice, converting local hardwood pulpwood into cellulosic ethanol. From the press release, hardwood pulpwood is described as a selectively harvested, naturally regenerated feedstock that is an underutilized, abundant resource in the surrounding area. While I’m not entirely sure what that means at this point it sure sounds good on paper. Initial efforts to contact the PR rep for Mascoma haven’t panned out yet, but any additional information will be posted here.


Source: Mascoma Press Release | Image: Arie Wolde via Shutterstock



In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.