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Published October 13, 2009, 06:49 AM

Discussion continues on biomass ethanol refinery

As Inbicon A/S and Great River Energy continue looking at the potential of a $200 million biomass ethanol refinery near Spiritwood, the next step locally is exploring biomass production capability in the region.

As Inbicon A/S and Great River Energy continue looking at the potential of a $200 million biomass ethanol refinery near Spiritwood, the next step locally is exploring biomass production capability in the region.

Connie Ova, Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp. CEO, told board members Monday of GRE’s visit to Inbicon’s newly developed biomass ethanol plant in Denmark. Members of the Department of Commerce also took the trip. Representatives from Inbicon were in Jamestown early last month to tour the area and hear from state agencies on what North Dakota can offer. Ova said the Danish company was impressed with its reception in North Dakota.

“If they (Inbicon) move forward with it they’ll do it at Spiritwood,” Ova said.

Inbicon is developing technologies for converting straw into bioethanol. With its cutting-edge technology a car’s emission of CO2 is reduced by 85 percent compared to conventional gasoline. Denmark is hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference and most of the cars provided for those attending will be using the bioethanol.

GRE has been looking for another steam host since the loss of a proposed corn-based ethanol plant in the Spiritwood Industrial Park. GRE, which expects to complete construction of its power plant by spring 2010, is working with Inbicon and its American partner Otoka Energy on development of a biomass ethanol plant in the park. Minnesota-based Otoka Energy has been involved in development of many ethanol plants in the country. It would be the owner-operator of the refinery in Spiritwood.

To further the project, GRE is seeking a $35.2 million grant through the U.S. Department of Energy. The grant would leverage a $341.5 million GRE investment in a waste steam distribution system. The waste steam would be used by the refinery to process ethanol.

“A lot depends on the grant,” Ova said.

She said GRE appears to still be in the running for the grant. Many of those applying have received rejection letters already, she said. Grant awards will be given in November.

At this point, the main concern for Inbicon in locating a refinery here is having sufficient ag waste — wheat straw and corn stover. A 4-million gallon ethanol plant would require eight semi loads of large bales of biomass a day for 350 days of the year.

“To engage the farmers, it has to make money for them,” Ova said. “We need to start facilitating discussions with them.”

Another consideration is what those eight semis would do to area roads.

“We do have the DOT (North Dakota Department of Transportation) road report,” she said. “But there would probably be a need to upgrade township roads and townships don’t have the money to do that.”

Inbicon/Otoka would not want to be the biomass collection site either, Ova said. It will be an opportunity for new businesses in the park and in the region.

In other business the JSDC Board:

* received a presentation by Red Plum Media on JSDC’s new logo and marketing materials.

* heard from Jim Boyd, board president, on the success of the first SCORE workshop with all 16 attendees going ahead on the process of starting a business.

* set the joint JSDC/city/county meeting for Oct. 21 at City Hall.

Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at tonip@jamestownsun.com

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