Cellulosic ethanol maker Range Fuels wins DOE grant

Range Fuels, a start-up which has designed processes for converting wood chips to ethanol, said on Wednesday it was awarded grants worth up to $76 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a plant in Georgia.

The company's technology, called K2, takes agricultural wastes, such as wood chips, grasses and cornstalks, and uses a two-step process to convert them to ethanol.

The grant will be used to construct a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Soperton, Georgia, about 100 miles west of Savannah.

The feed stock will be "unmerchanteable" Georgia pine trees and forest residues, according to Range Fuels. The Department of Energy grant specified that non-food stocks be used in ethanol production.

Range Fuels estimates that Georgia's forests can produce close to 2 billion gallons of ethanol from wood waste material a year on a sustainable basis.

The grant was set to be announced on Wednesday hosted by DOE secretary Samuel Bodman.

"Ultimately, success in producing inexpensive cellulosic ethanol could be the key to eliminating our nation's addiction to oil. By relying on American ingenuity and on American farmers for fuel, we will enhance our nation's energy and economic security," Bodman said in a statement.

Mascoma, another cellulosic ethanol company, is investing in a plant in which will convert wood chips to ethanol.

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