USDA to fund ZeaChem cellulosic biorefinery

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Programme, has granted a conditional commitment worth $232.5m to ZeaChem Boardman Biorefinery (ZBB).

The grant enables ZeaChem to construct a cellulosic biorefinery, at Boardman, Oregon, along the Columbia River, which will produce bio-based fuels and chemicals. The biorefinery project, which will be operational by late 2014, is excepted to have capacity of 25 million or more gallons-per-year (GPY).

The new plant will utilise high-yield cellulosic fermentation technology to produce advanced biofuels (cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels). The feedstock will comprise approximately 30% of agricultural residue, such as wheat straw and corn stover, and 70% of woody biomass from a local hybrid poplar farm.

ZeaChem's existing 250,000GPY integrated demonstration biorefinery plant at the site is currently creating operational data that will provide information needed for the commercial scale project, which will be located on an adjacent site. Accordingly, an estimated 51% or more of the biorefinery's output will be advanced biofuel, and the remaining will be high-value biobased chemicals, such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate.

The total project cost for the 25MGPY biorefinery is estimated to be $390.5m. USDA said under the conditional commitment, ZBB must meet specified conditions before the 60% loan guarantee can be completed.

ZeaChem president and CEO Jim Imbler said the USDA loan guarantee is a significant validation for its highly efficient, economical and flexible biorefinery technology.

USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the project and others like it will help to establish a domestic advanced biofuels industry that will open new markets in the Pacific Northwest and across the US.