US Company Turns Pine Waste Into Motor Fuel

US Company Turns Pine Waste Into Motor Fuel

A Wyoming Company called KL Process Design Group has branched out from making corn ethanol and has built a small factory to making the fuel from pine waste instead. “We’re still learning and tweaking, and hoping for a little bit of capital infusion,” said KL Vice President Tom Slunecka. The company, which aims to begin

A Wyoming Company called KL Process Design Group has branched out from making corn ethanol and has built a small factory to making the fuel from pine waste instead. “We’re still learning and tweaking, and hoping for a little bit of capital infusion,” said KL Vice President Tom Slunecka.

The company, which aims to begin commercial sales from the factory by the end of the year, is only one of many in the burgeoning biofuel-from-waste industry. Encouraged by high oil prices, government incentives and a flood of venture capital, at least 28 small factories are now in operation, under construction or in advanced planning.

Motor fuels can be made, in theory, from any material that contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Sources now being used vary widely, from plant-based sources such as trees or algae to outright garbage. One company in Nevada, for example, is starting construction this year on a factory that aims to make 10.5 million gallons of ethanol per year from 90,000 tons of municipal waste, while Los Angeles County has approved a plan for a similar factory next to a Lancaster, Calif. landfill. A company in Montreal plans to make fuel out of electric poles contaminated with arsenic.

The incentive is certainly there, with the U.S. government offering subsidies of up to $1 per gallon for non-corn biofuel, and
large startup grants to meet a congressional mandate to make 18 billion gallons of biofuel from non-corn sources by 2022.

While some companies say that production is imminent, other observers are skeptical.

“I personally think it’s not there yet,” said Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. You have to look at starts with a grain of salt, especially starts where they say, It’s around the corner, and by the way, can you pay half the bill?

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