Ceres Trials Energy Crops at Georgia Biofuel Facility
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. announced today that it will trial improved switchgrass cultivars and high-biomass sorghum hybrids with Range Fuels, Inc. as part of a cooperative field trialing program at the site of Range Fuels' commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, now under construction near Soperton, Georgia, about 150 miles southeast of Atlanta.
While wood residues will be the primary feedstock for this first-of-a-kind biorefinery, Ceres said that Range Fuels is also interested in better understanding the economic, environmental and logistical attributes of non-food, low-carbon grass species in the production of cellulosic biofuels. These grass species have a number of advantages: they have relatively rapid breeding cycles, they are highly efficient at storing sunlight in the form of carbohydrates, and they are widely adapted. Last spring, Ceres provided seed of new, high-yielding varieties that was planted in demonstration plots on Range Fuels' Soperton Plant site. The crops will be assessed for several years.
"The goal is to determine the best crop management, storage and handling practices for Georgia, and just as important, the performance of herbaceous biomass in Range Fuels' conversion process," said Anna Rath, Ceres vice president of commercial development. She noted that grass species, including both annuals and perennials, can provide a flexible and reliable supply of raw materials for fuel and power. "This is an important step in demonstrating that energy crops can be successfully and sustainably grown in the area surrounding the Range Fuels Soperton Plant site," she said.
Mitch Mandich, CEO of Range Fuels, said this project will inform future expansion decisions by the green energy company. "As we think about expanding production beyond our Soperton Plant, which will use woody biomass, we need to start understanding how a variety of high-yield, minimal impact biomass feedstocks, such as those being explored by Ceres, can assist in our expansion efforts. Our relationship with Ceres will be invaluable in this process."
Ceres recently announced that it will commercialize its first seed varieties under the trade name Blade Energy Crops. Rath said that the company will begin booking seed orders this fall for the 2009 growing season. "We are getting calls from agricultural producers interested in putting 10 or 20 acres in the ground to gain a better understanding of these crops. Some are located near existing or planned biorefineries, while others are looking to attract biorefineries to their area," she said. Rath noted that grass crops appear to be well suited to both thermochemical conversion systems as well as biochemical processes that utilize enzymes in the production of biofuels.
Ceres, Inc. (http://www.ceres.net/) is a leading developer of high-yielding energy crops that can be planted as feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production and biopower. Its development efforts cover switchgrass, sorghum, miscanthus, energycane and short-rotation woody crops. The plant breeding and biotechnology company markets its seed products under its Blade Energy Crops brand. Ceres holds one of the world's largest proprietary collections of fully sequenced plant genes. The privately held firm also licenses its technology and traits to other organizations.
ABOUT RANGE FUELS
Range Fuels, Inc. is focused on green energy and the production of cellulosic ethanol using plant matter (or biomass) that cannot be used for food, is sustainable, renewable and abundant. The company's innovative technology converts renewable and sustainable biomass, such as wood chips, paper pulp, olive pits, and more, to ethanol. The company's proprietary K2 system uses a two-step thermo-chemical conversion process. The first step converts the biomass to synthesis gas and the second step converts the gas to ethanol. The company's business model is to design, build, own and operate its plants. The leadership team melds experience from Silicon Valley's fast-paced, high-tech world, and the technologically intensive coal, coal gasification, power, and gas-to-liquids industries, the renewable fuel industry, and the pulp and paper industry. Range Fuels' vision is to introduce the world to a fuel that's renewable, sustainable, and eco-friendly.