BlueFire plant begins construction

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – With the necessary permits in hand, BlueFire Renewables is ready to begin building its $300 million ethanol refinery.
The Irvine, Calif.-based company said Wednesday that it had received its final air, wastewater and storm water permits from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to start construction of the plant that will be located on a 40-acre site on Access Road.
Clearing, grading and drainage work on the site will take about 120 days, and construction of the cellulosic ethanol refinery will begin shortly afterward, said Richard Klann, the company’s investor relations spokesman.
“We’re seeing about 20 months for construction, and it will be a full two years before we’re ready to go,” he said.
At peak construction, 600-700 workers will be on site, he added.
The facility will be engineered and built by Wanzek Construction Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of MasTec Inc. for $296 million. The cost includes an approximately $100 million biomass power plant as part of the facility.
When the ethanol-producing facility is fully operational, BlueFire will employ 75-80 workers, Klann said.
The plant will use green and wood wastes available in the region as “feedstock” for the plant that is designed to produce about 19 million gallons of ethanol a year.
Feedstock includes materials like wood chips; forest residual chips; pre-commercial thinnings; and urban wood waste such as construction waste, storm debris, land clearing and manufactured wood waste from furniture manufacturing.
In September, BlueFire reached a 15-year deal in which Cooper Marine & Timberlands would provide all the feedstock for the plant to convert into ethanol.
Also in September, BlueFire inked a 15-year deal with Tenaska BioFuels in which Tenaska would buy and market all of BlueFire’s production.
BlueFire received $88 million in grants to help fund the plant. The money was part of a $564 million federal investment in 19 biorefinery projects in 15 states. The company has requested a total of $250 million under the U.S. Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program.