Excerpts from a Jul 3, 2007 Toledo Blade story
The technology would boost construction costs but would help keep the plant's operating costs lower as the cost of ethanol production rises. Industry experts said ethanol demand is growing and more plants are proposed, boosting the price tags of new ones.
Thomas Byrne, of Byrne & Co. Ltd., Preston, Minn., has advised investment groups on ethanol plant construction, such as Buckeye Biofuels. Without disclosing confidential information, he said the higher costs of the Toledo project are mostly because of newer technology to allow the plant to make ethanol from sources other than regular feed corn.
However, a plant under construction by The Andersons Inc. of Maumee in Greenville, Ohio, is pegged at $85 million to make 100 million gallons a year. The plants use corn to make ethanol, which in turn is mixed with gasoline to make vehicle fuel. A blend with 85 percent ethanol, called E85, is cheaper than traditional gasoline but gets poorer mileage and can be used only in designated cars and pickup trucks.
Nathan Schock, a spokesman for Poet Co., of Sioux Falls, S.D., the nation's largest dry mill ethanol producer with 20 plants in operation and seven under construction, said ethanol production prices are closing in on $2 a gallon, driving up the costs of plant infrastructure and construction. The cost of many projects has doubled over the last three or four years, he added. Experts say the companies that build such plants are getting backlogged, adding to the prices.The Andersons said this year it was scaling back its ethanol investments because of the rising costs. It opened a 110 million-gallon plant in Clymers, Ind., this year at a cost of $140 million.
Unfortunately, it's also much more difficult to make ethanol from cellulose. But in the last five years an intense amount of research and capital has been thrown at this problem, and now we're seeing results. Cellulosic ethanol can contain up to 16 times more energy than is required to create it! If that doesn't sound ridiculously impressive, consider that gasoline contains only 5 times more energy than was required to create it and corn ethanol is totally lame, containing only 1.3 times the energy required to create it.
[T]his is very exciting. Unfortunately, it's still more expensive than sugar ethanol (and gasoline) to create. This is generally because scientists have focused on expensive enzymatic processes that create ethanol at very low concentrations. Range biofuels uses a more straightforward thermo-chemical process to gasify the cellulose and then convert it to ethanol.Range fuels will be creating its ethanol from wood chips, which contain a very large amount of energy (think fire.) The plant, which will be completed in 2008, will create over 100 million gallons of ethanol per year.