U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on January 20, 2012 announced USDA has approved a conditional commitment for a $25 million guaranteed loan to build a biorefinery plant with funding support from USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program. The plant will be constructed by Fiberight, LLC based in Blairstown, Iowa. Plans are for the new cellulosic ethanol production facility to be located at the site of an existing corn ethanol plant at Blairstown, which is in eastern Iowa.
"This project is another step the Obama administration is taking to support production of a new generation of renewable fuels," said Vilsack, "in order to build an active biofuels and biomass production industry in every region of the country. Investments in renewable energy create jobs and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil."
Iowa-based project will create jobs, expand production of biofuels
USDA funding will be used to construct a 55,000 square foot facility that will produce cellulosic ethanol by converting municipal solid waste and other industrial pulps into advanced biofuels, as well as using conventional renewable biofuel derived from seed corn waste. When operational, the facility is expected to produce approximately 3.6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.
The process will use a cellulosic microbe to produce up to 15% more ethanol than traditional fermentation technology, and reduce energy inputs in the fermentation and distillation process, according to the USDA announcement. Fiberight estimates the project will create 38 jobs and save 16 jobs.
Corn ethanol facility would be converted into cellulosic ethanol plant
Under the conditional commitment, Fiberight must meet specified conditions before the loan guarantee can be completed. Other funding comes from the State of Iowa. Fiberight also received a $2.5 million grant from the Iowa Power Fund in 2010. The company will work with the Benton County landfill to supply a portion of the feedstock for the project. The total project cost is estimated at $59.5 million. Fiberight, LLC was incorporated in 2007 for the purpose of converting an existing ethanol facility into a cellulosic ethanol facility at Blairstown.
"This funding is an example of the many ways that USDA is helping revitalize rural economies to create opportunities for growth and prosperity, support innovative technologies, identify new markets for agricultural producers, and better utilize our nation's natural resources," said Vilsack.
He added, "The Obama Administration is working to promote domestic production of renewable energy to create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, combat global warming, and build a stronger rural economy. Today, America imports just over half of the transportation fuels this country uses – down from 60% when President Obama took office – but we can do more to meet the President's goal of reducing our net fuel imports by one-third by 2025."
USDA helping companies build biorefineries and cellulosic ethanol facilities
At Secretary Vilsack's direction, USDA is working to develop the national biofuels industry producing energy from non-food sources in every region of the country. USDA is conducting and encouraging research into innovative new energy technologies and processes, helping companies build biorefineries (including the first ever commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities) and supporting farmers, ranchers, and businesses taking risks to pursue new opportunities in biofuels. Along with Federal partners, USDA is establishing an aviation biofuels economy, and has expedited rules and efforts to promote production and commercialization of biofuels.
USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program was authorized by Congress under the 2008 Farm Bill. It provides loan guarantees to capitalize on the growing opportunities in renewable energy provided by advanced biofuels. The program is designed to assist with the commercial deployment of production technologies to produce advanced biofuels, and thereby increase the energy independence of the United States. The program also promotes resource conservation, public health, and the environment. It helps diversify markets for ag and forestry products and agriculture waste material; and creates jobs and enhances the economic development of the rural economy.To read more about the Administration's renewable energy efforts, click here. USDA, through its Rural Development agency, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a network of employees in the nation's capital and state and local offices. The programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.