Planned Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Moving Forward Despite Grant Rejection

Source: By Michael Schneider, OPIS • Posted: Monday, September 19, 2016

A planned $150 million cellulosic ethanol plant in North Dakota with an annual nameplate capacity of 13 million gal will move forward despite the rejection of a grant request, according to an official involved in the project.

Massachusetts-based New Energy Investors LLC remains confident that it will be able to open the facility in Jamestown, according to Thomas Corle, a partner in the firm.

The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. board of directors in April approved recommending a $75,000 match to a $225,000 grant that New Energy had applied for from the state’s Agricultural Products Utilization Committee.

The grant request was turned down the following month, but the group plans to reapply, according to Corle.

“There were a couple of items there that they had noted as far as what the money was being spent for on the project,” he said.

Meanwhile, other aspects of the endeavor are continuing, including fundraising.

“We are finishing up the raise with investors, and it is being well-received by investors,” Corle said. “We are selling shares within the company New Energy Spirit Biomass Refinery LLC in North Dakota. That company will own the project and is selling shares to raise the rest of the development capital. We plan to finish the development within 12 months, and within that next 12 months be reapplying for that grant as well.”

Corle said he is unsure how long it would take to get an answer as to the fate of a second application, but added that “they meet several times a year and do a pretty fast turnaround.”

The grant was to be used for continuing the planning and engineering work for the project, but Corle expects the rejection to have no impact on the project’s schedule.

“No, it was a small amount and we do look for North Dakota to support this project,” he said, “and will continue to work with them on that.”

Estimates called for the engineering work to be complete by next spring, with groundbreaking next June.

Construction would take two years, according to Corle, with the plant beginning operations in early 2019 and being fully operational by the end of that year.

“We expect it to take about six months to be able to ramp up to full nameplate production,” he said previously.

The plant would utilize about 190,000 tons of corn stover and wheat straw to produce the 13 million gallons of ethanol and 90,000 tons of lignin each year.

The plant would use proprietary technology developed by DONG Energy, which is Denmark’s largest energy company, according to Corle, and the loans used to finance the plant may be guaranteed by the export agency of the Danish government.

This would be the first use of Danish technology to produce cellulosic ethanol in North America, he said.

The plant, with about 40 employees, is anticipated to have a footprint of about
30 acres, according to Corle, and will be located near Dakota Spirit AgEnergy’s
65 million gal/year grain ethanol plant. A joint venture relationship with Dakota was being formed, he said.