Clearfield County chosen for ethanol site

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SALEM, Ohio – Pennsylvania is making huge strides in the ethanol race.
Gov. Edward Rendell said Aug. 17 Clearfield County, in the central part of the state, would be home to the state’s first ethanol production facility.
And the Keystone State’s first ethanol factory is a major player in the world of renewable fuels: Plant developers say it will be the largest or next-to-largest plant east of the Mississippi River.
Yearly production, pegged at 108 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol, would also put the plant among the Top 10 in the U.S.
What’s coming. Though no specific location in the county has been chosen, ground is expected to move in the first quarter of 2007 and the plant is forecasted to open in 2008, according to Sam McConnell, vice president of development for BioEnergy International and project manager.
McConnell said the company is currently scrutinizing three to five sites in the county, and expect a final decision in the next month or two.
Development. Plans also call for around 300 temporary construction jobs, and 110 permanent jobs at the site.
“With gas prices at or above $3 a gallon, Pennsylvania is sending approximately $30 billion overseas. It’s time to take that money and invest it at home by supporting new technologies that will grow our economy and open the door to new opportunities,” Rendell said.
Partners in the project are BioEnergy International LLC, headquartered in Massachusetts, and Lukoil Americas, based in Moscow, Russia.
BioEnergy will build and operate the facility and Lukoil will serve as the exclusive distributor of the finished product.
Location, location. The Clearfield plant will be BioEnergy’s second facility in the U.S. The first, in Louisiana, is under construction and final building contracts are expected to be finalized shortly, McConnell said.
McConnell said BioEnergy isn’t traditional in that it doesn’t limit locations to traditional Corn Belt states.
Instead, BioEnergy embraces a concept it calls “destination ethanol,” where the site is closer to the end user than the inputs.
“We choose to save on transportation costs on [the output] end instead of being close to the corn,” McConnell said.
Funding. The state has offered up a $17.4 million investment to support the project, anticipated to cost a total $250 million.
The Keystone financing package includes a $400,000 grant through the Opportunity Grant Program and $500,000 in job creation tax credits.
The state also put up $2.5 million in grants and loans through the Infrastructure Development Program, and $14 million through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
The majority of the $250 million price tag – $180 million – will support the building of the facility.
Pilot project. The remaining $70 million will be used to develop a pilot-scale cellulose demonstration plant, part of BioEnergy’s vow to develop other new technologies to produce renewable fuels.
The smaller pilot-cellulose plant will use BioEnergy’s ground-breaking technology to produce fuels using locally available organic wastes, such as wood and agricultural residue.
“It’s important to us that the location supports inputs for both corn-based and alternative ethanol,” McConnell said.
Rendell said the state’s growth potential for cellulosic ethanol is substantial: The commonwealth contains enough plant matter to produce in excess of 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.
Biodiesel, too. Rendell also said Pennsylvania is on the road to being the nation’s leading producer of soy biodiesel within the next year.
Twenty proposed biodiesel projects statewide are in various stages of development and would fuel production of nearly 40 million gallons annually.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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