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. Researchers Will Work With Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

File photo of a ethanol based power plant.
by Staff Writers
Potsdam NY (SPX) Dec 27, 2006
Susan Powers, associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Clarkson's Coulter School of Engineering, was paying special attention today when Governor Pataki announced that $24 million was being awarded to two companies for the development and construction of the state's first cellulosic ethanol plants.

That's because Powers and other environmental researchers and students at Clarkson will participate in the project with Mascoma Corporation, one of the companies receiving the state funding. Mascoma, with the help of a $14 million grant from the governor, will build a 500,000-gallon-a-year cellulosic ethanol pilot facility in Greece, near Rochester.

In addition to Clarkson University, strategic partners with Mascoma on the project will be Cornell University and Genencor, a well-known supplier of enzymes for the conversion of starch to fermentable sugar in the production of fuel ethanol. The multi-feedstock plant will be commissioned initially on paper sludge.

After an expected several month shakedown, the facility will add additional feedstocks, including, but not limited to, wood chips, switchgrass, willow and corn fiber. International Paper will supply the plant with paper sludge and Seaway Timber Harvesting, a Massena company, has been identified as a supplier for hardwood chips.

Under Powers' leadership, Clarkson will apply life cycle analysis (LCA) tools to quantify mass and energy flows to analyze regional environmental and societal impact of the pilot plant. The researchers are also interested in refining the actual metrics currently being used by various governmental agencies to gauge outcomes.

Some bio fuel experts feel that ethanol made from corn is not viable or sustainable because it requires too much energy to produce and monopolizes valuable farmland, which could be used to grow other crops. On the other hand, cellulosic ethanol utilizes common materials, such as grasses, willows and hardwood chips - materials that can be grown on marginal land.

Mascoma, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in collaboration with universities like Clarkson, is aggressively pursuing the development and commercialization of advanced cellulose-to-ethanol technologies. Powers provided written support of Mascoma's efforts to secure funding from New York State's Department of Agriculture and Markets for the pilot facility.

"By collaborating with Mascoma, Clarkson faculty and students will gain key insights into the requirements for commercial viability and gain an opportunity to engage in the up-front planning phases of a live bio-fuels demonstration plant," said Powers. "Additionally, participation in the project will provide Clarkson with a unique opportunity to develop and refine input/output modeling methodologies to study material and energy balances for developmental processes and facilities."

Catalyst Renewables Corporation, a renewable energy company out of Texas, was awarded $10 million to build a 130,000-gallon-a-year pilot biorefinery adjacent to their existing wood-to-energy plant in Lyonsdale.

Although technical and supply barriers still exist in the production of cellulose ethanol, the governor pointed out that the development of renewable homegrown fuels is key to reducing our dependence on imported energy, creating new high tech jobs and new markets for our agricultural and forest products. Clarkson and St. Lawrence County figure to be key to the state's renewable energy efforts.

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Robins AFB GA (AFNS) Dec 21, 2006
Air Force Materiel Command officials here are tied to a project that could provide warfighters at remote bases with a cleaner, quieter way to power runway lights and other electrically powered devices. Air Force Advanced Power Technology Office, or APTO, officials here held a December demonstration of a hydrogen fuel cell for providing power at remote locations.

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