Maine Bioproducts Business Pathways
Energy use in the United States and Maine is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels. Finding a way to produce renewable fuels in the State of Maine that can replace these fossil fuels will address national security threats, sustainability concerns inherent in the use of fossil fuels, and keep manufacturing in Maine. An important alternative fuel for the near term is ethanol, and producing it from a cellulosic feedstock allows the fuel source to remain independent of the food chain. Kraft pulp mills in Maine have an opportunity to evolve and meet the demand for alternative fuels, by utilizing the “near-neutral” extraction process developed at the University of Maine. By incorporating this process within the pulping process itself, ethanol and acetic acid can be produced while still producing pulp, allowing Kraft pulp mills to expand beyond their current processes to become biorefineries and produce additional products. This paper discusses the different processes that can be utilized in a Maine biorefinery to produce ethanol and acetic acid as initial products, with an emphasis on the “nearneutral” process. We also analyze potential investment and production costs for a biorefinery, based upon studies that have looked specifically at this type of evolution, as well as cellulosic biorefineries that are based upon other types of processes. Included in the economic analysis are transportation costs for potential biorefineries in Maine. We also identify pulp mills and proximities to wood resources and product transport costs to potential wholesale and retail customers in the state.