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Biofuels Plant Produces First Cellulosic Methanol

Cut logs (Okko Pyykkö/Flickr)A Range Fuels Inc. plant in Soperton, Georgia — the company’s first commercial biofuels plant — has produced its first cellulosic methanol, using non-food biomass as the feedstock.

The first phase of the plant’s operations uses Range Fuels’ two-step thermo-chemical process, which combines heat, pressure, and steam to convert non-food feedstocks, such as woody biomass and grasses, into a synthesis gas composed of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The synthetic gas is then passed over a catalyst to produce mixed alcohols that are separated and processed to yield a variety of low-carbon biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and methanol.

The company says cellulosic methanol produced from Phase 1 will be used to produce biodiesel, which can replace diesel oil in transportation fuel markets. It can also replace diesel in heating applications, and be used as a fuel additive in gasoline-powered motor vehicles, or to power fuel cells.

The plant’s initial raw materials will come from woody biomass generated by nearby timber operations. The company plans to experiment with other herbaceous feedstocks, such as miscanthus and switchgrass.

Range Fuels plans to begin production of cellulosic ethanol from the plant in the third quarter this year. The company says its cellulosic ethanol will meet ASTM standards for fuel-grade ethanol and will be used to displace gasoline in local and regional transportation fuel markets.

Photo: Okko Pyykkö/Flickr

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