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Work on new ND biorefinery under way

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Construction has begun on a new biorefinery here that will produce about 18.8 million gallons of ethanol annually from agricultural byproducts.

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Construction crews work on the future site of the Red River Biorefinery ethanol facility in rural Grand Forks on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. Nick Nelson / Agweek

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Construction has begun on a new biorefinery here that will produce about 18.8 million gallons of ethanol annually from agricultural byproducts.

The 80,000-square-foot plant - expected to open on an 11-acre site in late 2019 in north Grand Forks - will be "state of the art" and "have the lowest carbon footprint" of any ethanol plant of its kind in North America, said Jacek Chmielewski, a principal of BioMass Solution, the Wisconsin-based company behind the project.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held Wednesday, Aug.22, even though construction was already under way.

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BioMass Solution Principal Jacek Chmielewski provides a virtual tour of the Red River Biorefinery.

The Grand Forks plant, similar to one that's been operating in Poland for five or six years, will convert about 550,000 metric tons of ag byproducts from American Crystal Sugar, J.R. Simplot and Philadelphia Macaroni into ethanol for transportation markets in California, Chmielewski said.

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Project officials, citing competitive factors, declined to say how much the plant will cost but said it involves a $35-million investment.

Twenty-five "well-paid" positions will be created at the biorefinery, with hiring expected to begin soon. Chmielewski declined to give a range of what the positions will pay.

Potential employees should have a "can-do attitude and be well-trainable," and "experience in biological conversation" would be helpful. College degrees are not needed for most of the positions, Chmielewski said.


Another 20 support positions, including truck drivers who deliver ag byproducts to the plant around the clock, will be created, he said.

An estimated 100 to 200 construction workers will help to build the plant.

Strong support from the Grand Forks community, as well as the presence of feedstocks, contributed to BioMass Solution's decision to plant the plant there, Chmielewski said.

Financial support included a five-year tax exemption, approved by the Grand Forks City Council, worth about $456,000.

Both potatoes and sugar beets are major crops in the Grand Forks area, a city of about 57,000 on the North Dakota-Minnesota border. The new plant will add value to the beets, potatoes and ag byproducts it uses, said Keith Lund, president and CEO of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.

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"We've been working on this four years, and we're excited to see it reach this stage," Lund said.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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