Biofuel executive says work on Oslo Road plant remains on track

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Even after the recent INEOS Bioenergy open house at the Heritage Center to introduce local residents to the hot new green technology, questions remained whether or not the company will really break ground and bring with it 200 jobs to Indian River County. 

The Indian River BioEnergy Center is a $100 million-plus investment, with roughly half the money coming from state and federal grants.  INEOS Bioenergy has plans to refurbish the old Ocean Spray plant, and is expecting to begin major construction in early 2011.  The plant will produce ethanol from waste products with the goal of decreasing our dependency on fossil fuels and without contributing to the raising of food prices. According to Dan Cummings, Head of Commercial Operations for INEOS Bio, the company will begin work on the plant this fall.  While they don’t have all of their permitting and licensing approved yet, he said all facets of the project are on schedule.

The one sticking point is purchasing the property, but Cummings said he expects to wrap up those negotiations soon.

“We’re set to close on the property next month,” said Cummings, of the former Ocean Spray property adjacent to the Indian River County Landfill off Oslo Road. “All roads are leading to having the project underway in the fall.”

“The project has gone out to bid,” added Cummings.  “We were one of the 19 programs selected for the 50-50 cost matching grant out of the 300+ applications that were analyzed.”

According to Managing Director of the Indian River County Waste Disposal District,Himanshu Mehta, the county only has the landfill capacity for another 30 years of waste.  “We wanted to find out about all the technology out there that could help us,” said Mehta.  “INEOS Bio was the only company that stepped forward.  Looking at the overall benefits to the county it would have, we moved forward.

“Overall, we’ve taken the approach of being cautious,” added Mehta.  “On the business side, this is a real disposal option for the future.  The ability to turn waste into electricity and produce ethanol here locally is exciting

While it is exciting, there was one person there who played the role of devil’s advocate.  Jan Goodman, production manager for Genuine Bio-Fuel Incorporated in Indiantown, pointed to some recent failures amongst bio-fuel plants.  “There are bio-fuel plants that have shut down and been given up on,” said Goodman.  “MIT and Harvard have been working on algae for years — they used up all their funding, and they gave up.”

Goodman was referring to GreenFuel Technologies, one of the earliest and best-funded companies attempting to create fuel from algae.  Started by a former MIT doctoral student Isaac Berzin, GreenFuel’s bio plants would impound greenhouse gases, help ween the U.S. off foreign oil, and generate revenue from carbon credits and product sales.  In 2007, however, was the beginning of the end for the company.  Their Arizona greenhouse grew algae faster than they could be harvest it, causing the algae to die. The system was a failure, and GreenFuel shut down in May of 2009.

Goodman believes in bio-fuels, though, and he really wants to see the plant work for Vero beach.  “There were a lot of places trying to get this plant,” said Goodman.  “The idea of ‘Sleepy Hollow” Vero Beach getting it is amazing.”

“I hope these people have the wherewithal to survive construction to put their idea into practice-it will be a boom for all of Florida,” added Goodman.  “It is a great idea, and I do hope it works.”



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