Ceres Trials Energy Crops at Georgia Biofuel Facility

9 09 2008

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ — Energy crop company Ceres,
Inc. announced today that it will trial improved switchgrass cultivars and
high-biomass sorghum hybrids with Range Fuels, Inc. as part of a cooperative
field trialing program at the site of Range Fuels’ commercial-scale cellulosic
ethanol plant, now under construction near Soperton, Georgia, about 150 miles
southeast of Atlanta.

While wood residues will be the primary feedstock for this first-of-a-kind
biorefinery, Ceres said that Range Fuels is also interested in better
understanding the economic, environmental and logistical attributes of
non-food, low-carbon grass species in the production of cellulosic biofuels.
These grass species have a number of advantages: they have relatively rapid
breeding cycles, they are highly efficient at storing sunlight in the form of
carbohydrates, and they are widely adapted. Last spring, Ceres provided seed
of new, high-yielding varieties that was planted in demonstration plots on
Range Fuels’ Soperton Plant site. The crops will be assessed for several years.

“The goal is to determine the best crop management, storage and handling
practices for Georgia, and just as important, the performance of herbaceous
biomass in Range Fuels’ conversion process,” said Anna Rath, Ceres vice
president of commercial development. She noted that grass species, including
both annuals and perennials, can provide a flexible and reliable supply of raw
materials for fuel and power. “This is an important step in demonstrating that
energy crops can be successfully and sustainably grown in the area surrounding
the Range Fuels Soperton Plant site,” she said.

Mitch Mandich, CEO of Range Fuels, said this project will inform future
expansion decisions by the green energy company. “As we think about expanding
production beyond our Soperton Plant, which will use woody biomass, we need to
start understanding how a variety of high-yield, minimal impact biomass
feedstocks, such as those being explored by Ceres, can assist in our expansion
efforts. Our relationship with Ceres will be invaluable in this process.”

Ceres recently announced that it will commercialize its first seed
varieties under the trade name Blade Energy Crops. Rath said that the company
will begin booking seed orders this fall for the 2009 growing season. “We are
getting calls from agricultural producers interested in putting 10 or 20 acres
in the ground to gain a better understanding of these crops. Some are located
near existing or planned biorefineries, while others are looking to attract
biorefineries to their area,” she said. Rath noted that grass crops appear to
be well suited to both thermochemical conversion systems as well as
biochemical processes that utilize enzymes in the production of biofuels.

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