Home / Crops / Renewable Energy / Ethanol / Cellulosic ethanol could be just around the corner this time

Cellulosic ethanol could be just around the corner this time

Agriculture.com Staff 02/07/2007 @ 3:48pm

When Bob Dinneen started working for the Renewable Fuels Association 20 years ago, the Department of Energy was saying that cellulosic ethanol would be commercially viable in five years.

Today, the estimate is still just five more years to ethanol that isn't made from grain alone.

"With the resources that are being thrown at it now, it's inconceivable to me that we're not able to crack the code in a matter of years," said Dinneen, who is now president of the trade group that lobbies for the ethanol industry in Washington, D.C.

Interviewed Wednesday morning, Dinneen was on his way to a grand opening for a new corn-based 100-million gallon capacity ethanol plant owned by U.S. BioEnergy in Albert City, Iowa.

According to the RFA, the nation now has 113 plants with capacity to produce 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol annually. Another 77 plants are under construction and 7 are expanding, which will add another 6 billion gallons of capacity.

Dinneen's group does not oppose cellulosic ethanol.

"If we want to have a meaningful role in the E-85 market, we have to be able to produce 30, 40, 60 billion gallons of ethanol -- and that means cellulosic ethanol," he said. No one expects corn, even with expanded acres and increasing yields, to be abundant enough to make that much ethanol.

Dinneen believes that some of RFA's corn-based members, including ADM, may develop the technology to break down cellulose to fermentable sugars soon. And the source of the cellulose may be the fiber in corn kernels that currently winds up in livestock feed.

Another company that is close to commercializing cellulosic ethanol is the Spain-based ethanol producer, Abengoa. It expects to begin a pilot level test of making ethanol from corn and milo stover and wheat straw this spring in the U.S.

Some planned plants, including one proposed by the Canadian enzyme firm, Iogen, may depend on loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy. Funding for that program has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives for this year, Dinneen said, and the Senate could vote on it today.

When Bob Dinneen started working for the Renewable Fuels Association 20 years ago, the Department of Energy was saying that cellulosic ethanol would be commercially viable in five years.

CancelPost Comment
MORE FROM AGRICULTURE.COM STAFF more +

Farm and ranch risk management resources By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Government resources USDA Risk Management Agency Download free insurance program and…

Major types of crop insurance policies By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Crop insurance for major field crops comes in two types: yield-based coverage that pays an…

Marketing 101 - Are options the right tool… By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am "If you are looking for a low risk way to protect yourself against prices moving either higher or…

MEDIA CENTERmore +
This container should display a .swf file. If not, you may need to upgrade your Flash player.
Pre-Harvest Checklist