Biofuels company spurns ethanol plant in LF, despite receiving $1 million grant from state of Minnesota

Chooses instead to build cellulosic plant out of state

The state of Minnesota and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute in Crookston shelled out $1.01 million in grant funding to Mascoma Corporation in 2008 to build a cellulosic ethanol plant next to the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op in Little Falls.

But late last year, the New Hampshire-based biofuels company abandoned plans to build it in Little Falls and will instead build plants in Michigan and Alberta.

The original plant, which would have cost an estimated $123 million, was intended to turn wood chips into ethanol with the possibility of simultaneously boosting Minnesota’s logging and energy industries.

The grant included $910,000 from the state of Minnesota and $100,000 from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.

Terms of the grant did not specify that the company must build a plant in Minnesota.

According to the United States Department of Energy, cellulosic ethanol is much more abundant than starch- and sugar-based feedstocks and therefore would be better able to help fulfill U.S. fuel demands.

It also requires less fossil fuel energy to grow and be collected and can be grown on marginal lands ill-suited for various other crops.

This grant was designed to help research a more cost-effective way to produce cellulosic ethanol.

The U.S. has yet to develop a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant.