Mascoma makes ethanol from wood--at small scale

Cellulosic ethanol company says test facility using wood chips and grasses is producing at a rate of 200,000 gallons a year, a step toward commercialization.

Start-up company Mascoma said on Wednesday that a demonstration facility is making ethanol from wood chips and other non-food sources, bringing cellulosic ethanol a step closer to commercialization.

Click on the image to launch a photo gallery of Mascoma's research lab in Lebanon, N.H. Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks

The test facility in Rome, N.Y., uses different feedstocks, including wood and grasses. Production is at a rate of 200,000 gallons per year. Mascoma didn't disclose the yield, or how much biomass is converted into fuel.

The company is testing two methods for making ethanol: a traditional enzyme-based process and one using a genetically modified microbe designed to make the conversion cheaper.

Mascoma is one of a handful of upstart companies developing different technologies to convert wood chips and other non-food biomass into ethanol, which is an additive to gasoline.

Because of the economy and disrupted financial markets, non-government funding for cellulosic ethanol pilot facilities has become harder .

At the upstate New York facility, Mascoma said that it is benefiting from state grants aimed at promoting renewable energy businesses.


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