07/29/12 — Duplin to hold biofuel meeting

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Duplin to hold biofuel meeting

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 29, 2012 1:50 AM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County agricultural officials aren't letting any grass grow under their feet when it comes to letting local producers know about an opportunity to grow high-energy grass crops that would be used to create ethanol to use as a biofuel.

Sampson County officials are still awaiting word on whether Chemtex will build a $90 million ethanol biofuels plant near Clinton that could produce some 20 million gallons of ethanol annually. But in Duplin, the county Cooperative Extension Service, along with the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, will host an information meeting about the project on Tuesday.

The dinner meeting will start at 6 p.m. at the Lois G. Britt Agricultural Center, Duplin County Cooperative Extension Office, 165 Agriculture Drive, Kenansville.

Anyone planning to attend should contact the Extension Service at (910) 296-2143 by Monday.

The sign-up period has begun for people who want to grow the hybrid perennial grasses for the Clinton facility even though no formal announcement has been made as to whether or not the plant will be built. The sign-up period will end Friday, Sept. 14.

The purpose of the Tuesday meeting is to provide more information about growing the grasses -- switchback and giant miscanthus -- and to answer questions about the program.

The grasses would be grown on spray fields used to dispose of treated hog lagoon wastewater.

Information will include crop establishment budgets and revenues and initiating contractual terms with Chemtex.

Representatives from Chemtex, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and the Biofuels Center of North Carolina will be at the meeting.

Wayne, Duplin, Sampson, Bladen, Cumberland, Greene, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow and Pender counties comprise a 4,300-acre target area where the grasses would be grown. The USDA, through its Biomass Crop Assistance Program, has allocated almost $4 million for the area that would be sponsored by Chemtex .

The objective for the target area is to annually produce 76,000 green tons of biomass-based renewable fuel yielding more than 20 million gallons annually.

According to the USDA website, the Chemtex 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 in Sampson County. The facility would occupy about 22 acres for operations and services.

The plant would create 65 new and mostly local jobs with average salaries of $48,415. Wayne County also had been considered as a possible location for the plant.

Producers who sign up for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program would grow the two grasses on the spray fields.

The Farm Service Agency will administer the program on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation with conservation planning assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and others.

The Farm Service Agency would enter into five-year contracts with eligible producers to grow the grasses on cropland enrolled in Biomass Crop Assistance Program. They would receive start-up support and a five-year subsidy to transport their harvest to Chemtex.