Ecofin, a subsidiary of Nicholasville-based Alltech Inc., has been awarded a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help fund the company’s planned $70 million biorefinery in Springfield, Ky.
The biorefinery will be one of the first in the United States to utilize cellulose – such as switch grass, corn cobs and corn stover – at raw material levels of up to 30 percent. It will then be converted to ethanol and other value-added products.
The biorefinery will also have the capability to produce algae, which can theoretically produce 5,000 gallons of biofuel per acre per year, as compared to corn, which can produce 400 gallons per acre. In addition, algae can absorb up to 450 tons of carbon dioxide per acre when grown commercially.
“The rural community biorefinery is truly a missionary of new technologies,” explained Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech. “Cellulosic ethanol utilizes raw materials which are readily available and which alleviate the current demand for grain for ethanol production. With commodity prices reaching an all-time high and with ethanol production forecast to account for 30 percent of the U.S. corn harvest by 2010, we must focus our attention on a sustainable path to alternative energies.”
Construction on the facility is expected to begin next month, and it could possibly be producing ethanol within 16 months. The biorefinery will employ approximately 90 people.