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Pasco Company Gets Stimulus Grant for Richland Biodiesel Refinery

PASCO -- Gen-X Energy Group in Pasco has been awarded a $720,000 grant of federal economic development money to build a biodiesel refinery in Richland. The award was among $16.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants and loans announced this week by Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state Department of Commerce. The money was awarded for energy efficiency, clean technology, transportation and bioenergy projects. The initial unit of the biodiesel refinery could be operating by the end of the year at the Horn Rapids Industrial Park. The federal money would be used with private money for the first phase of the project, which will cost $2.9 million, according to the Gen-X application for the grant. "There's no way we'd go ahead with this project on this schedule and scale without the stimulus money," said managing partner John Forrest. Gen-X plans a biodiesel refinery using new technology that it told the state "significantly reduces cost of manufacture and operation through process simplification and heat integration." It also would allow the plant to produce technical-grade glycerol as a second product. The first unit is planned to produce 6 million gallons per year of biodiesel. Over a decade, that would reduce the need for 60 million gallons of petroleum diesel. Three production modules could be added at the site later. The project in its initial stage would provide 10 permanent jobs. The new technology planned for the plant would use as little as one-tenth of the energy used by traditional biorefinery plant designs by reusing heat produced during processing, the application said. In addition, a new catalyst that would be used at the plant would result in glycerol pure enough to be considered technical grade, the application said. Gen-X believes there is far more demand for technical-grade glycerol than the glycerol usually produced by biorefineries, which has impurities that are difficult to remove. Together the two proprietary process technologies would simplify the design of the plant, improve its reliability, dramatically reduce its size, the cost to build it and would reduce operating costs, Gen-X told the state. The technologies also would eliminate boiler emissions, some waste and the need for boiler water treatment chemicals, according to Gen-X. The company is building a prototype plant in Utah, but the Richland plant would be the first production plant using the new technologies, Forrest said. Gen-X has orders for two additional biodiesel production models, based on the success of the Richland project, it said in its application. Among the strong points the state found in Gen-X's application was that it had "solid biodiesel experience." Gen-X operated a biodiesel plant in Burbank until last July, when it burned down. It continues to blend biofuels. Gen-X has signed an agreement with a sister company of Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co., called 10 North Washington Ave., to build on its land. The railroad also will give the company access to rail to transport feedstock and its product. The company's preference is to use local feedstock for the plant. That could include waste vegetable oil from food processing plants and oil from canola and camelina, also known as false flax, that are grown in the region. This article published courtesy of the Tri-City Herald

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