Bio-energy firm closes on $9.75M Ocean Spray site

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — An alternative energy company with plans to convert trash to fuel has closed on the $9.75 million former Ocean Spray property next door to the county landfill.

“We’re now the proud owner of a juice plant,” INEOS New Planet BioEnergy partner David King said.

The Indian River BioEnergy Center is a $100 million-plus investment, with roughly half the money coming from state and federal grants.  With the closure on the property, King said the firm is now “in a position to be spending more money.”

INEOS New Planet BioEnergy will refurbish the old Ocean Spray plant, and is expecting to begin site work later this year, possibly as early as September or October, according to King.

The plant is expected to produce ethanol from waste products with the goal of decreasing our dependency on fossil fuels and without contributing to the raising of food prices.

King expects to have the biofuel facility fully functional by the second quarter of 2012.

The first part of 2012 will be used to commission the facility – making sure all the equipment runs and behaves the way it is supposed to.

“You can’t just come in and turn on a button,” King said, adding that the plant will have to meet certain environmental and safety conditions before it can start running.

INEOS New Planet BioEnergy facility is expected to produce 8 million gallons of ethanol a year and produce enough of its own electricty to run the plant and sell excess capacity on the open market once it reaches peak performance.

The company has worked out an agreement with the county to buy the wood-based garbage it needs from the county, which is expected to help extend the life of the county’s main landfill.

Partner Tex Carter told earlier this year that the firm settled upon Indian River County because Florida produces no ethanol on its own and must purchase it on the open market. Most of the ethanol used in the U.S. either comes from the Midwest or from overseas. “One of the advantages was that we could produce clean ethanol, as opposed to the corn-based ethanol, in the location where we could sell it,” he said at the time.

King expects INEOS New Planet BioEnergy to hire approximately 150 to 200 construction workers to build the facility. Once complete, the company plans to hire about 50 employees to operate it.

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