Engineering News

Biofuel Refinery Planned for S. Virginia
March 18, 2011

The CEO of Piedmont BioProducts plans to build a commercial refinery in the Gretna Industrial Park. The facility would convert feedstock to oil, said Ken Moss.

Moss said he hopes to begin building the project in 2012 and start operating in late 2012 or early 2013.

"It's just a great opportunity for this region," Moss said during an interview Wednesday.

The purpose of the project is to engage farmers in Pittsylvania County to supply the feedstock -- especially miscanthus -- a tall, woody grass with large stems -- Moss said. His venture would also covert switch grass and timber byproducts, such as wood chips and sawdust, to oil.

"It's going to appeal to a lot of farmers and landowners," Moss said.

The enterprise would be a green-energy facility, turning material from its organic state to oil and bio-char, a concentrated form of carbon, Moss said.

The oil would be for commercial and industrial boilers, and Moss hopes to upgrade the product in the future for use in green gasoline and green diesel. Moss wants to also eventually see the oil used as a feedstock for making petrochemical replacements, such as those in plastics and fertilizers.

Funding from the Tobacco Commission and the private sector would help pay for the $8 million to $10 million first phase of the project, Moss said. He hopes to eventually construct a second refinery at another location in southern Pittsylvania County, with further expansions at other sites in the state.

The Gretna facility would start out with capacity to convert 50 to 100 tons of material to about 6,000 gallons of oil per day. Later-phase production capacity would enable Moss to turn 500 tons of feedstock to about 60,000 gallons a day, Moss said.

The project would employ eight people at the beginning and about 40 at maximum capacity, Moss said. The venture would be community-based, with local investors and its products coming from area farmers and landowners.

"The Gretna vicinity is an ideal location due to the availability of the local land and people to support it," Moss said.

Moss has had the project in the works since 2004, operating a pilot facility and modifying it to increase efficiency.

"This is a win-win for Gretna and the rest of Pittsylvania County," said Gretna Town Manager David Lilly.

Lilly said Moss' project could spur the development of tractor dealers and repair shops and farm-implement stores that were found in Gretna in the past. Thousands of acres of unused farmland could be used to grow feedstock, benefiting farmers, Lily said.

"We've created our own economic stimulus package," Lilly said of Moss' plans.

Source: Danville Register & Bee, VA.

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