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Changing Fortunes For Cellulosic Fuel Makers

by Melody M. Bomgardner
July 18, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 29

As one developer of cellulosic biofuels gets funded, two others face difficulties. Natural gas firm Chesapeake Energy has paid $155 million for a 50% stake in Sundrop Fuels. Sundrop uses high temperatures to gasify cellulosic feedstock into synthesis gas, which is catalytically converted to gasoline through a process developed by ExxonMobil. Colorado-based Sundrop plans to have a 40 million-gal-per-year plant operating by late 2013. Cellulosic fuels firm Choren, meanwhile, has declared insolvency in the midst of efforts to commission its own gasification demonstration plant in Freiberg, Germany. The firm encountered financing difficulties before the plant could begin production. And Range Fuels shut down its facility in Soperton, Ga., earlier this year after producing a small volume of ethanol. The company, which was expected to be a large producer of ethanol via cellulose gasification, has not provided a timeline for restart. Partly as a result of the shutdown, EPA forecasts that no more than 12.9 million gal of cellulosic biofuel will be produced in the U.S. next year, down 97% from the 500 million gal it had projected in February 2010.

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