USDA last week announced a $99-million loan guarantee to Chemtex International, Inc., to build a 20-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol refinery in eastern North Carolina’s Sampson County.

The plant is expected to convert 600,000 tons of miscanthus, switchgrass and other grasses into 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. Chemtex, based in Wilmington, NC, is working with local farmers and producer organizations to begin growing the grasses. About 30,000 acres will be needed, and a portion of it will be established with financial help from USDA. In June, Chemtex was awarded $3.9 million by the agency under its Biomass Crop Assistance Program to help establish over 4,000 acres of miscanthus and switchgrass in 11 North Carolina counties.

In partnership with the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, the company has identified nearby farmland currently growing Coastal bermudagrass to manage swine-lagoon effluent. Converting that land from bermudagrass to higher-yielding energy grasses will give area swine farmers increased economic opportunity plus enhanced effluent management, USDA reports.

The plant is expected to create 65 full-time jobs plus 250 indirect jobs in areas such as feedstock supply, maintenance and transportation.

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