Range Fuels said Thursday it has replaced its CEO with a former Royal Dutch Shell executive at a time when the biofuel industry is pummeled by the slumping economy.

Range Fuel, based in Broomfield, Colo., is installing David Aldous as its leader while the former CEO Mitch Mandich will stay on the board of director.

Range Fuels, which is building its first commercial refinery in Soperton, Ga., will be counting on Aldous to steer the company through a tough economy and a biofuel market marred by lots of upheavals. VeraSun, a large ethanol maker, just filed for bankruptcy (see VeraSun Files for Bankruptcy).

Aldous has 28 years of experience in the oil and energy industry. Before joining Range Fuels, he was the executive vice president of strategy and portfolio for Shell in London.

Founded in 2004, Range Fuels expects the first phase of its commercial refinery construction to be completed in late 2009. The plant will have an initial production of 20 million gallons per year.

The technology uses extreme high heat and steam to turn feedstocks into synthesis gas, which is then processed into fuels. The concept isn't new and is used by other biofuel makers, including Fulcrum BioEnergy (see Fulcrum BioEnergy Turns Trash into Treasure).

Mandich, who used to be the senior vice president of worldwide sales at Apple, grabbed the spotlight when he left the IT industry for the field of making car fuels out of agricultural waste and other nonfood plant materials.

Mandich also now earns a spot on the list of IT executives who joined the greentech world but didn't hold on to their posts for long. Martin Tobias left Microsoft to join biodiesel maker Imperium Reneawbles, but left nearly a year ago (see Imperium CEO Leaves Amid Biofuel Profit Pressures).  David Pearce left thin-film solar maker Miasole, which he founded after starting two optical communications companies.

Also last year, Tesla Motors let go of its CEO Martin Eberhard, who worked at computer networking and consumer electronic companies – as well as TV Guide – before he co-founded the electric carmaker  (see Tesla Founder Ousted).

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