The commercial project, located in Sampson County, N.C., is the first of its kind in the mid-Atlantic region.
"At USDA we are focused on the production of renewable energy from a wide variety of non-food sources, including energy grasses," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
"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," he said.
Once operational, the Chemtex facility is expected to convert 600,000 tons of energy grasses per year into an estimated 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol (advanced biofuel) using a proprietary enzymatic hydrolysis process.
The plant will produce bio-fuel for eastern transportation markets using non-food biomass feed-stocks.
About 30,000 acres will be required to supply the facility with sufficient feedstock. 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 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.
The loan guarantee approval is subject to conditions that Chemtex must meet prior to closing of the loan.
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