The plant will be located near the town of Soperton, Georgia, and will draw on gasification technology to convert wood and wood waste from Georgia's pine forests and mills into 20 million gallons of ethanol per year. Construction of the first phase is expected to be completed in 2008. DOE will provide $50 million in support of the first phase of construction and will provide another $26 million for the first expansion phase, which will increase its capacity to 30 million gallons of ethanol per year. The company plans to eventually expand the plant to an annual capacity of 100 million gallons of ethanol per year.
The Soperton plant will be fueled with wood and wood waste to minimize its reliance on fossil fuels. And in a state that's currently wracked with drought, the Soperton plant is projected to consume one-quarter of the water consumed by today's corn ethanol plants. Range Fuels estimates that Georgia could produce enough cellulosic biomass to support up to two billion gallons of ethanol production using the company's technology.
US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman noted its importance for advancing cost-competitive ethanol produced from non-food biomass sources, an approach crucial for reducing the nation's dependence on petroleum.
Over the next four years, DOE intends to invest up to $385 million in six commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol refineries, including the Range Fuels plant as well as facilities to be located in Kansas, Florida, California, Iowa, and Idaho. The six biorefineries will have a combined production capacity exceeding 130 millions gallons.