The Cellulosic Race is On

Cindy Zimmerman

SunOpta As an alert reader pointed out to me (see previous post) SunOpta is “working with Celunol on the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States,” as announced in a press release August 3.

As this article in Red Herring points out, the race to build the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the US is definitely on.

Xethanol announced in July it is building a plant that will produce 50 million gallons per year in Augusta, Georgia. That plant is expected to start production by mid-2007.

In Canada, Iogen has a demonstration plant running and in May raised $30 million in Canadian dollars (about $27.1 million) from Goldman Sachs to build the first commercial plant. Iogen is also hoping to be the first in the U.S. as it is working on a deal to build a plant in Idaho (see previous post).

SunOpta is also Canadian-based and Celunol is located in Massachusettes and has the backing of ethanol venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. As Murray Burke, vice president and general manager of SunOpta, says in the Red Herring article, “The starting pistol has gone off,” for cellulosic ethanol in United States.

We’ll see who crosses the finish line first. But, no matter what, the ethanol industry and the country will be winners once this new technology that can use all kinds of materials to make fuel is made commercially viable.

Cellulosic, Ethanol