Cellulosic ethanol maker Range Fuels goes belly up

After shutting its biofuel plant in January, Range Fuels is being forced to sell its assets after failing to make ethanol from wood chips at scale.

Flickr user/Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden

Range Fuels, a government-backed company that represented high hopes for biofuels, will have to sell off its assets after failing to produce fuel, according to a report.

Bloomberg on Friday reported that the company is being forced to foreclose by the Department of Agriculture and sell equipment from its biofuel plant in Soperton, Georgia. The company had stopped operating in January after failing to meet technical goals.

The Colorado-based company had received funding from the Departments of Agriculture and Energy as well as venture capital investors, including Vinod Khosla.

The Georgia plant was designed to take wood chips from the residue of pine tree harvesting and convert that biomass into ethanol. But the company's plant, which used gasification technology, never managed to clear all the technical hurdles to make its desired fuel at large volumes.

The Soperton project was initiated under the Bush Administration which announced the loan guarantee for the plant in early 2009, according to Bloomberg. The project received $43.6 million of a $76 million grant from the Energy Department and half of an $80 million loan from the Agriculture Department, according to the article.

Many companies that set off to make ethanol or other fuels from non-food sources over the past five years have had disappointing results. Range Fuels, which has been criticized by industry observers for over-promising, had hoped at once point to be producing fuel at significant scale by 2008.