Thanks in part to a $25 million federal grant, Colorado-based biorefiner Zeachem broke ground in early June on a cellulosic ethanol demo plant in eastern Oregon near Boardman. Company officials say the facility will produce 250,000 gallons of ethanol annually, plus ethyl acetate. The plant is using poplar fiber from Greenwood Resources irrigated fiber farms near the Columbia River, where Greenwood manages a 17,000 acre poplar plantation. Zeachem uses a bacteria-based technology that breaks down the sugars in cellulose into acetic acid, in a process that’s completely carbon neutral and requires little external energy input.
The new plant will use some residual material from a Greenwood Resources sawmill that started up inside the poplar plantation last year. Zeachem President Jim Imbler says that a five-mile radius of trees around a full-scale Zeachem plant could produce 100 million gallons of ethanol annually. While the sawmill will provide some feedstock, additional raw material will come from chipped roundwood.Tags: Colorado, Oregon, Zeachem