Making Ethanol in Tennessee
Dozens of federal and state officials attended the dedication of a state-of-the-art refinery that represents a new state partnership with the Department of Energy's bioenergy research program. Funded by the state of Tennessee and located about 40 miles from Oak Ridge, the refinery is designed to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of a biofuel manufacturing process developed by DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, a joint venture of DuPont and the Genecor division of Danisco.
Managed by Genera Energy, the refinery includes a process-development laboratory that will be used to scale-up production of new forms of cellulosic ethanol developed at ORNL's Bioenergy Sciences Center, operated for the Department of Energy. The unique pairing of a federal research facility with a state biorefinery will enable researchers to validate new products and processes as they develop the next generation of biofuels.
The refinery will generate up to 250,000 gallons of ethanol annually. Initially, the refinery will use corncobs and corn fiber as the raw materials for ethanol production. "DuPont Danisco has tested their technology with these materials in the laboratory and in smaller-scale units," says Brian Davison, ORNL's Chief Scientist for Systems Biology and Biotechnology. Davison says plans include testing switchgrass conversion technologies in the plant's process development unit. Once the corn-based demonstration project is completed, Dupont Danisco will move the switchgrass-based processes to the larger plant in 2011.
The Tennessee refinery is the first cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant that integrates all the components of research, biomass, and production. In addition to the refinery, the state's bioenergy project incorporated cellulosic research at ORNL and state subsidies for Tennessee farmers to plant switchgrass, a perennial crop that can be grown on marginal land with little fertilizer and water. State officials expect the pilot refinery will soon leverage investments of a larger, full-scale biorefinery in Tennessee.
Web site provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Communications and External Relations