The Potential for Bio- Fuel Production in Georgia
An Update to Georgia Legislature
Sixty-six (66%) of the United States petroleum use is imported (EIA 2005), much of which comes from
unstable political climates. Several efforts are underway throughout the United States to improve the
security of our energy sources by encouraging the development of domestic fuel production. Ethanol
produced in the US will mitigate the effects on supply and costs caused by international incidents. The
Federal Energy Act of 2005 includes numerous provisions to promote domestic fuel production. The 25 x
’25 program is promoting the production of 25% of the nation’s energy use from farms, forests, and
ranches by 2025. The Energy Security study performed by the Southern States Energy Board and
commissioned by a group of southern Governors recommends a strategy to make imported oil
unnecessary by 2030. The strategy included recommended actions by States, as well as the Federal
government. Legislative and policy measures taken by twenty-eight states promote the sales of ethanol
fuel and actions by seventeen states are helping to start ethanol and other biofuels production facilities.
At this time, Georgia has not taken comparable actions.
Abundant Biomass Resources
Georgia has tremendous forestry and agricultural biomass sources. Georgia forest owners are growing
15% more wood each year than they harvest (US Forest Service). The Georgia Forestry Commission has
estimated that Georgian’s have planted over 4 billion trees since 1985 and that there are 5 million tons
(dry basis) of merchantable pine wood grown each year more than the amount harvested in Georgia.
Pulpwood production in the US South has declined from 4 billion cubic feet in 1997 to 3.3 billion cubic
feet in 2003. If this trend continues, millions more tons of forest biomass will become available. The
Forestry Commission has committed to monitor forest resource levels to insure sustainability of the
forest and the industry.
An additional 19 million tons (dry basis) of waste wood is produced in Georgia each year(General
Bioenergy, Inc.). This includes logging residues, urban wood waste, and other sources. Combining the
excess growth of pines with this waste wood gives Georgia the potential to produce over 2 billion gallons
of ethanol annually from forestry biomass.
Georgia farmers grow a variety of row crops that also produce 5 million dry tons of residues annually
(University of Georgia). These types of cellulosic biomass can be converted to ethanol.
Wood volume in
pine forests has
Million Cubic Feet
1,500.00 other softwood
1,000.00 hard hardwood
6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 21 - 29 >29
Tree Diameter in Inches
The ethanol industry is a rapidly growing industry. There are currently 106 corn-to-ethanol plants
operating with an additional 44 plants under construction. These ethanol plants are the first type to be
developed. The industry is moving into a second phase to utilize the higher feedstock availability of
woody cellulose from forests and other energy crops, such as switchgrass. Two types of cellulosic
ethanol production technologies exist today: 1) hydrolysis followed by fermentation and 2) thermo
chemical. The hydrolysis/fermentation process uses uniform feedstock, such as pine fiber or
switchgrass. The thermo chemical conversion involves gasification or pyrolosis of any type of biomass
to create a synthetic gas. The synthetic gas is then converted through a “fischer tropes”, or similar
process, to a liquid fuel. Ethanol, butanol, diesel, and other fuels can be refined in this manner. The
thermo chemical process can take advantage of wood waste mixtures available in Georgia today. Using
both technologies to process the excess wood available in Georgia, over 2 billion gallons of ethanol
could be produced each year in Georgia.
Efforts are underway throughout the United States to determine the best sites for cellulosic ethanol
refineries using both of the technologies listed above. New industries have many obstacles to overcome
in early development, including financing hurdles, risk management, competing industries, and legal
constraints. If Georgia is to be part of this industry, state leaders must provide encouragement to these
innovators and business developers.
Activities in Georgia include interest in both technologies described above. C2 Biofuels is pursueing the
commercialization of the hydrolosis/fermentation procedure through a well planned process of scale-ups
starting with a pilot-scale facility being constructed in 2007 with the eventual goal of a commercial-sized
plant under construction in 3 – 5 years. Other firms have expressed strong interest in applying existing
gasification technologies in Georgia.
Ethanol fuels are good for the environment. They produce few emissions and encourage forest
E85 is a fuel composed of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. According to the National Ethanol Vehicle
Coalition, “E85 has the highest oxygen content of any transportation fuel available today, making it burn
cleaner than gasoline.” “Fewer exhaust emissions result in reduced production of smog and a decline in
respiratory illness associated with poor air quality.” E85 produced from cellulose is also very close to
carbon neutral, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The energy balance for cellulosic ethanol is very favorable with one fossil fuel energy unit of input
producing ten energy units in ethanol output, thus a 1 to 10 ratio.
Data from Timber-Mart South timber price reporting service and from the Georgia Forestry Commission
shows that the value of pine pulpwood is directly proportional to reforestation efforts. A market for small-
diameter pines created by an ethanol industrial will contribute positively to the State’s forested acreage.
A cellulosic ethanol refinery has been proposed that would produce 50 million gallons per year, create
$75 million in direct economic impact (wholesale price $1.50/gal). This would utilize 625,000 tons (dry
basis) of biomass each year ($10 million to landowners), create 30 – 50 jobs at the manufacturing facility,
and have an indirect effect of creating jobs and other income in the surrounding community. Efficient
and sustainable utilization of Georgia’s biomass resources by many strategically placed ethanol plants
would create a multi-billion dollar industry.
Economic Impacts of Forestry in Georgia 2001 – 2005
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
For more information contact:
Georgia Forestry Commission