January 27, 2008

Verenium's Jennings Plant Nears Completion

This article is an update on the construction of Verenium's cellulosic plant in Jennings, Louisiana.

The first ethanol plant in the U.S. using enzymes to make ethanol from plant scraps should be built here by March 31, company officials said Friday during a site tour.

Verenium, a Massachusetts-based company, built a small plant in Jennings in 2006 to test new ways to make cellulosic ethanol from plant matter and farm scraps like sugarcane bagasse (pulpy fiber) and wood chips. It's one of a few pilot plants in the U.S. acting like chemistry labs in search of the cellulosic breakthrough.

They hope to have construction finished before April and are already considering their next step, a commercial scale plant.

In February 2007, Verenium broke ground on a 1.4 million gallon-per-year demonstration plant right next to its Jennings pilot site. The company hopes to finish this second plant before April, where Verenium will fine-tune its enzymes, ethanol production and feedstocks (primarily local cane bagasse) before it goes full-scale with a third plant.

That commercial-scale third plant could make 25 million to 30 million gallons of ethanol per year from biomass as far away as New Iberia, if it were built in Jennings. Sites in Florida and Texas are also being considered for the third plant.

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