Virdia Inc. announced Tuesday it will spend $60 million to build Lafourche Parish biochemical processing facilities that will convert sugar cane bagasse into industrial sugars and biofuels.
The project will create 81 new direct jobs, averaging $55,000 a year, plus benefits. Louisiana’s economic development department also estimates the project will result in 469 new indirect jobs in the Bayou Region and surrounding areas. The project will support an estimated 120 construction jobs.
The project represents the first major co-location of an industrial processing facility with a Louisiana sugar mill. The processing plants will be installed beside the Raceland Raw Sugar Corp. mill in Raceland, where Virdia has secured an agreement to use 80,000 tons per year of the mill’s bagasse, or sugar cane waste.
The company will begin hiring in 2015, with expected completion of the $60 million project by the end of 2016.
“Virdia is creating quality new jobs by developing new methods for making sugar cane products that will continue to help support our farmers,” said Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Virdia Inc., a U.S.-based company, was recently acquired by Stora Enso Oyj, a $14 billion-per-year forestry products company headquartered in Finland with operations worldwide. The acquisition supports the vision of Stora Enso’s biomaterials division of becoming a significant player in biochemicals and biomaterials.
Founded in 2007, Virdia is developing extraction technologies for the conversion of cellulosic biomass into refined fermentable sugars, biochemicals and high-quality lignin.
Otavio Pontes, managing director of Virdia, said the company chose Louisiana because of the accessibility to a sustainable non-food raw material — sugar cane bagasse.
The state offered Virdia an incentive package that includes a performance-based $1 million Economic Development Award Program grant to offset infrastructure costs. Virdia will use the state’s job training program and is expected to use the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
“The familiar sight of the ‘Raceland Mountains’ will disappear because these innovative people have determined that sugar cane waste can be transformed into useful products in the biochemical industry,” said Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph.