Zeachem has produced the first fuel-grade ethanol and chemicals from poplar chips at its demonstration plant in Boardman, Oregon, the company said Tuesday.
Jim Imbler, president of the Colorado-based company, said the equipment performed as it should and called the first output a “great validation of the technology.”
The Pacific Northwest, with its abundant wood resources has become a hub of research efforts to turn cellulose — the basic structural component of plant cell walls — into ethanol fuel.
Zeachem received a $25 million federal Energy Department grant to build the Boardman demonstration plant, and could use federal loan guarantees to help finance a much-larger, commercial-scale biorefinery that it plans to begin building next year in Boardman.
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Imbler declined to say how much ethanol had been produced in the initial run of the demonstration plant, or what type of conversion rates of wood to ethanol were achieved.
He said the demonstration plant, with a capacity of 250,000 gallons a year, will become more efficient over time.
Imbler declined to forecast how much ethanol will be produced this year, but said the product will be sold into the fuel markets.
“Anything we make, we will sell,” Imbler said.