In North Carolina, Chemtex announced that it has received a $99 million conditional loan guarantee from USDA, under the USDA’s 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program for the engineering and construction of “Project Alpha.”
Chemtex is in discussions with the State of North Carolina to locate Project Alpha, a 20 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol facility, in the Sampson County area, with a projected start-up date in 2014. Project Alpha is planning to use dedicated non-food energy feedstock crops, which can be grown on low-value and marginal land such as hog lagoon sprayfields.
Branch Banking & Trust (“BB&T”) will be the Lender of Record for the Project – and the Stern Brothers Group have been acting as investment bankers for the deal. The USDA’s loan guarantee approval is subject to conditions that Chemtex must meet prior to closing of the loan.
Chemtex will use Beta Renewables’ PROESA technology to produce cost-competitive ethanol using non-food biomass as its feedstock. This is the same technology that will be used at the world’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy, expected to start operations in the fall of 2012, and also in a series of plants to be built by GraalBio in Brazil. Because PROESA Technology enables the use of multiple types of feedstock, farmers gain flexibility in choosing which non-food crops to grow. Project Alpha has received additional support from the USDA in the form of a Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Award that will help farmers and land owners with start-up costs of planting new energy crops.
Chemtex is a global engineering and technology company wholly-owned by Italy’s Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi. Chemtex specializes in delivering value-added project solutions for its clients in the bio-fuels, renewable chemicals, energy, environmental, petrochemical, polymers and fibers industries.
Beta Renewables is a unique $350 million (€250M) joint venture formed by Chemtex, TPG and TPG Biotech. Beta Renewables has invested over $200 million (€140M) in the development of the PROESA Process.
In partnership with the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, Chemtex has identified nearby farmland that is currently growing Coastal Bermuda grass to manage swine lagoon effluent. Conversion from Coastal Bermuda to high yielding energy grasses, including miscanthus and switchgrass, will provide Chemtex a cost effective biomass feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production and area swine farmers with increased economic opportunity as well as the land stewardship benefits of enhanced effluent management.
In June of this year, Chemtex was awarded $3.9 million by the USDA, under its Biomass Crop Assistance Program, to support the establishment of over 4,000 acres of miscanthus and switchgrass across eleven counties in North Carolina.
The feedstock will be part of the biomass supply for Chemtex’s facility. The net increased revenue to local growers is projected to be $4.5 million per year. Chemtex is working with local farmers and producer organizations to begin growing energy grasses for the facility. About 30,000 acres will be required to supply the facility with sufficient feedstock.
Reaction from Washington
“Today’s announcement supports the Obama Administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to embrace alternative American-produced feedstocks that support our nation’s energy independence and provide jobs in rural areas,” said Vilsack. “At USDA we are focused on the production of renewable energy from a wide variety of non-food sources, including energy grasses. The facility we are announcing today will help create more than 300 jobs in North Carolina and is a perfect example of how producing home-grown energy is good for the economy and good for our energy future.”
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