11/01/11 — Sampson gets biofuel plant

View Archive

Sampson gets biofuel plant

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 1, 2011 1:46 PM

Wayne County appears to have lost out to Sampson County in the competition for a $90 million pioneering technology ethanol biofuels plant that would create 65 new and mostly local jobs with average salaries of $48,415.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, its Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) has received an application from BB&T on behalf of Chemtex International LLC for funding through the RBS 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program to build the facility near Clinton in Sampson County.

Chemtex officials said in July they had "definitely looked" at Mount Olive's industrial park on the Old Mount Olive Highway as a possible site.

Wayne County officials said they were unaware of the company's funding application.

Sampson County commissioners have offered the company a performance-based incentives package to lure it to the county and the Clinton City Council has rezoned the property.

The facility would generate more than $8 million in tax revenue over the first 20 years.

According to the USDA website, the project, known as Project Alpha, would be located on about 166 acres south of Warsaw Road between Fontana Street and Clive Jacobs Road southeast of Clinton. The facility would occupy about 22 acres for operations and services.

The plant will use hybrid perennial grasses to produce some 20 million gallons of ethanol. The grasses would be grown on spray fields used to disperse hog waste.

According to the website, the facility, "does not pose significant adverse effects to the natural or human environment. Some mitigation measures are proposed as loan conditions."

If approved, construction would begin in the second quarter of 2012, with operations planned to begin in 2014.

Chemtex and its parent company, M&G, are building a facility in Italy that will use the same technology to convert high-energy grasses into ethanol. Founded in 1958, Chemtex has a location in Wilmington.

It was the abundant spray fields used by swine producers to disperse swine lagoon wastewater that made the area so attractive for the project, company officials said.

Chemtex has an informal agreement with major companies such as Murphy Brown, Prestage and Goldsboro Milling to commit a certain tonnage of raw materials from the spray fields.

It is not the first time that Mount Olive has unsuccessfully courted a biofuels facility. A company had looked at developing a plant on a site across the Old Mount Olive Highway from the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. distribution center. However, height restrictions because of the nearby airport forced the company to look at a site on Northeast Church Road and the project was never built.