A New York company will invest $312 million for construction of 10 biorefineries designed to turn Louisiana sugar cane waste into fuel pellets for global power companies, officials said Monday in Plaquemine.
NFR BioEnergy LLC also will move its base from Plandome, New York, to White Castle, south of Plaquemine in Iberville Parish, said Gov. Bobby Jindal and Frank Randazzo, NFR’s chief operating officer.
NFR’s test refinery will be near White Castle at the Cora Texas Sugar Mill, NFR’s first Louisiana supplier of bagasse. Bagasse is an inedible waste from the production of sugar from sugar cane.
The Cora Texas mill dates to 1817, according to its website. It is capable of grinding 16,000 tons of cane and produce 2,000 tons of sugar per day.
Charlie Schudmak, chief operating officer for mill owner Cora Texas Manufacturing Co., said after the announcement at the Iberville Parish Courthouse the mill and NFR’s test refinery should begin operations by Sept. 25.
Randazzo said NFR BioEnergy plans to build a commercial-scale refinery at White Castle in time for the 2015 harvest season.
Randazzo also said nine other NFR refineries will be built near other Louisiana sugar mills by late 2019.
John Guillory, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s principal investigator for its Cleco Alternative Energy Center at Crowley, in Acadia Parish, said cooperation with NFR BioEnergy also has benefited the university’s research.
From Lafayette, Mark Zappi, the university’s dean of engineering, added in a written statement that sharing of the Crowley center’s information on conversion of bagasse to fuel shows “industry and academia can work together to grow Louisiana’s economy.”
Zappi said the university “looks forward to continued collaboration with NFR BioEnergy.”
Jindal said completion of all 10 of NFR’s refineries would create 450 new direct jobs, carrying an average salary of $54,000 a year, plus benefits. Louisiana’s economic development department estimated the project would result in an additional 1,903 new indirect jobs.
“When we took office in 2008, we targeted key industries where we could help existing employers grow and thrive, and that includes our agriculture industry,” Jindal said. “This project not only will create a new source of sustainable energy, but it will also create additional sources of fertilizer and lower waste and disposal costs for our sugar cane growers.”
NFR BioEnergy plans to negotiate long-term supply agreements with energy customers, chiefly electricity providers in Europe, but also secondary commercial and residential markets that use energy pellets in heating units.
As NFR BioEnergy scales up its Louisiana production sites, significant hiring will begin in 2016 with a target of 127 jobs by the end of that year. The company would reach a capital investment of $312 million by the end of 2018 and employment of 450 by the end of its fifth project year in 2019.
“NFR’s plant at Cora Texas in White Castle will be the first step toward revolutionizing both the energy pellet market and the disposal by Louisiana sugar mills of the excess waste produced in the refining process,” Randazzo said. “Our goal is to build similar plants at additional sugar mills in Louisiana. …”
To secure the project, the state offered the company an incentive package that includes a performance-based, $500,000 Economic Development Award Program grant and also use of the state’s job-training program. NFR BioEnergy also is expected to utilize Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.
If NFR BioEnergy fulfills its promises to the state, the Industrial Tax Exemption could shield it from local property taxes for up to 10 years.
Also, the Quality Jobs program could mean NFR would receive a cash rebate between 5 percent and 6 percent on its annual gross payroll for up to 10 years.
“We are excited to have their (NFR’s) facility co-located on our property at the mill and look forward to the benefits this project will bring to the mill and the growers,” Cora Texas’ Schudmak said.
“NFR is offering us an excellent opportunity to venture into new markets, along with capital to improve our efficiency in the production as well as the quality of sugar. The removal of leaves and soil before it enters the mill will allow us to produce more sugar and at a higher quality than was previously possible.”