A Colorado-based company is planning to build a $390 million commercial biofuel refinery in Boardman that would produce fuel from trees and farm waste by 2014.
This morning, ZeaChem announced its plans along with a $232.5 million loan guarantee from the U.S Department of Agriculture that will help get the project off the ground. ZeaChem recently completed a demonstration facility nearby that can produce 250,000 gallons of ethanol a year.
In an online video (see below), company president and CEO Jim Imbler explains how the process works and what makes it unique. The key is a bacterium that’s found in termites and that helps ferment the cellulose in plant material and turn it into ethanol that can be burned as fuel.
Agriculture Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager said his agency is supporting the project as part of a larger goal to meet alternative fuel targets that call for producing 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol nationwide this year and 15 billion gallons by 2022. So far, the cellulosic ethanol industry has been slow to take off, and the U.S. has missed its production targets.
“Strategically across the United States a lot of the biofuels industry today produced is based on corn – primarily in the Midwest and Northern Plains and other parts of the country,” he said. “We want to diversify it. We want to see it produced in other parts of the country and we want to see every part of this country benefit from the potential of growing biofuels. And we think strategically this is a great place for it.”
In a news release, Imbler said the loan guarantee will be key to financing the venture.
“This commitment allows us to move forward with securing financing, beginning construction, creating jobs in the community, and producing economical and sustainable products for the fuel and chemical industries,” he said.
If all goes according to plan, ZeaChem’s biorefinery will be capable of producing up to 25 million gallons of biofuel a year on a 30-acre site owned by the Port of Murrow. The company expects the project to create more than 100 construction jobs and 65 long-term positions.
(Read more from Cassandra Profita at her Ecotrope blog.)
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