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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Making cellulosic biofuel in the lab is easy-ish; industrial scale, not so much

Good story in the Union-Leader today about the decision by Lebanon's Mascoma not to go for an IPO and how it reflects problems in the whole cellulosic biofuel industry, which tries to make liquid fuels from the woody parts of plants.

Mascoma, using technology from a Dartmouth professor, converts hardwood pulpwood into ethanol using proprietary yeasts that allegedly eliminate the need for a number of expensive enzymes used in most biomass conversion. It's got a demonstration facility in New York State and had been planning a $100 million IPO to build a commercial-scale facility, but those plans were scuttled earlier this week.

Mascoma is the third major biofuel firm to pull back from an IPO, and the ones that have gone public aren't doing so hot. A variety of technologies are being tried to pull fuel-rich sugars out of cellulose, the part of plants which have protective cell walls (as compared to corn kernels, where the sugar is there for the taking). but none seems economically viable at large scale.

Read the story here.

Greentech Media had a good story earlier.