Merrick & Company of Aurora, Colo., is a finalist in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ 45th annual Engineering Excellence Awards competition for designing the nation’s first commercial-scale celluosic biofuels facility for Range Fuels in Soperton, Ga.

Merrick & Company integrated groundbreaking thermo-chemical technology to create a new facility for transforming wood chips, grasses, agricultural residues, and other organic material into energy. Using a two-step, thermo-chemical process, the plant will ultimately produce 10 million gallons of biofuels per year, providing an economically and environmentally sound alternative to fossil fuels and imported oil.

In addition to designing customized equipment for the facility, the project team worked with Range Fuels to secure a $76 million start-up grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The plant will spur the development of similar facilities, ensuring that the U.S. will have a sustainable supply of energy for the future.

The project is among 161 engineering projects from throughout the nation recognized by ACEC as preeminent engineering achievements for 2010. Judging for the Engineering Excellence Awards-known as the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry”-took place in February, conducted by a panel of more than 30 engineers, architects, government representatives, media members, and academics. Criteria for awards include uniqueness and originality, technical, social and economic value, complexity, and success of the projects in meeting goals.

All winners, including 16 Honor Awards, eight Grand Awards and the “Grand Conceptor Award” for best overall engineering achievement, will be recognized at the Engineering Excellence Awards Gala, to be held Friday, April 1, 2011, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C.