Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has approved a conditional commitment in the amount of $232.5 million to ZeaChem Boardman Biorefinery, LLC (ZBB) through the Biorefinery Assistance Program. ZBB will operate a 25 million gallon per year biorefinery, which will be constructed on an industrial site in Boardman, Oregon, along the Columbia River.
"In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his vision for a new era for American energy--an economy fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources that will be designed and produced by American workers," said Vilsack. "This project and others like it will help to establish a domestic advanced biofuels industry that will create jobs here at home and open new markets in the Pacific Northwest and across America."
Projected to be operational by late 2014, the biorefinery will create 65 jobs while supporting another 38 jobs with the parent company. Under the conditional commitment, ZBB must meet specified conditions before the 60 percent loan guarantee can be completed.
Located in the northeast part of the state, the biorefinery will use high-yield cellulosic fermentation technology to produce advanced biofuels (cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels). An existing 250,000-gallon per year cellulosic integrated demonstration plant at the site is currently generating operational data that will provide information needed for the commercial scale project, which will be located on an adjacent site. An estimated 51 percent or more of the biorefinery's output will be advanced biofuel, and the remainder will be high-value biobased chemicals, such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate.
The feedstock will consist of approximately 30 percent agricultural residue, such as wheat straw and corn stover, and 70 percent woody biomass from a local hybrid poplar farm. This poplar biomass carries a Forest Sustainability Council (FSC) certification, giving this cellulosic ethanol project particular merit as a model of environmentally-responsible, sustainable feedstock dependence.
The total project cost for the 25 million gallon per year biorefinery is estimated to be $390.5 million. The development of this advanced biofuel production technology serves as an example of Federal interagency partnerships through program support for research and development from the Department of Energy (DOE) Sun Grant Initiative; USDA's National Institute of Food & Agriculture; Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Programs; and the USDA Farm Service Agency's Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
Today's announcement is the second guaranteed loan under the Biorefinery Assistance Program (Sec. 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill) to be made by USDA this month. Last week Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA funding will be used to construct a 55,000 square foot facility near Cedar Rapids, Iowa that will produce cellulosic ethanol by converting municipal solid waste and other industrial pulps into advanced biofuels, in addition to production of conventional renewable biofuel derived from seed corn waste.
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 utilizes our nation's natural resources.
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 stronger rural economy. Today, Americans import just over half of our transportation fuels -- down from 60 percent 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. 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; promote resource conservation, public health, and the environment; diversify markets for agricultural and forestry products and agriculture waste material; create jobs and enhance the economic development of the rural economy.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of employees in the nation's capital and state and local offices. These 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.