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Biofuel Firm Proposes $70 Million Renewable Fuel Plant in Louisiana

June 30, 2021 by Dan McCue
Sugar cane being harveted in Louisiana. (Wikimedia Commons)

BATON ROUGE, La. – A firm specializing in the development of clean fuels hopes to invest $70 million in southern Louisiana to build a plant that can source waste from four nearby sugar mills and turn it into biofuel.

Though the plan is still in the evaluation stage, Delta Biofuel CEO Philip Keating and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards were evidently comfortable enough with where things stand to release a joint statement on the project.

According to Edwards and Keating, if the project is located in Louisiana, it would create 126 new direct jobs with an average salary of $62,5000.

Louisiana Economic Development has further estimated that the project would create an additional 149 indirect jobs in the region, and, at peak construction, employ up to 100 building trades workers.

Once completed, the Delta Biofuel facility would produce biomass fuel pellets made from residual sugarcane fiber known as bagasse.

These pellets will then be used alongside, or in lieu of, standard industrial wood pellets to generate power.

Bagasse fuel pellets are lower cost alternatives to typical wood pellets and the use of biomass fuel pellets results in a reduction of GHG emissions more than 100% versus the use of fossil fuel in these plants. 

European and Asian power and industrial heating plants transitioning away from fossil fuels now use over 25 million metric tons per year of wood pellet biomass, primarily displacing thermal coal as a feedstock. 

The planned facility would produce up to 300,000 metric tons of bagasse fuel pellets annually.

“Renewable energy is a key component in reaching environmental protection targets, and Louisiana looks forward to welcoming the latest renewable fuel investment, Delta Biofuel,” Edwards said. 

“Working in tandem with our sugar mills, Delta plans to turn previously discarded waste into a source of energy. Continued growth in the renewable fuels and renewable energy sectors is prime economic development, as Delta Biofuel’s project would result in a total of 275 new jobs in Acadiana,” he said.

Keating said the company would source all excess bagasse from four nearby sugar mills in Iberia, St. Mary and St. Martin parishes. Sourcing from these mills allows alternative use of the mills’ waste. 

Additionally, Delta has engaged European and Asian energy production facilities for multi-year commitments to purchase the fuel pellets.

“Our bagasse pellet manufacturing plant will provide a sustainable, long-term solution for the sugar mills by utilizing all excess bagasse produced each harvest,” he said. “This will not only reduce cost and liability for the mills, but will eliminate methane emissions from the discarded bagasse that you can see in huge piles around the state.” 

“These pellets are then delivered to power generation facilities, which produce renewable electricity. We see Louisiana and its sugar industry as a terrific and reliable source of biomass for alternative fuel production,” Keating continued. “We have been able to collaborate with our partner sugar mills to produce a solution for their needs, while establishing a viable project that can deliver long-term economic impact for the region and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in electricity production. Combine this with the fantastic industrial labor force and the support from the state, and we eventually expect to do even more beyond this initial project.”  

The company plans to locate the greenfield facility on 16 acres near U.S. Highway 90 in Louisiana, near one of its bagasse suppliers, Enterprise Sugar Mill. 

Groundwork for the new facility would begin September 2021, with completion expected in September 2022. Hiring would begin Spring 2022. Founded in 2019, Delta Biofuel is a wholly-owned start-up within Tasso Renewable Energy.

Louisiana Economic Development first began working with the company in December 2020. To secure the pellet plant in Jeanerette, the State of Louisiana offered Delta a competitive incentive package that includes the services of LED FastStart® – the No. 1 ranked workforce development program in the nation for the past 11 years. 

The package also includes a performance-based grant of $1 million as a reimbursement for infrastructure improvement expenditures, subject to the company reaching specified investment and payroll benchmarks. Delta’s planned project is also expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs program and, pending local approval, the Industrial Tax Exemption program.

“This is an exciting development for Iberia Parish,” said Mike Tarantino, president and CEO of Iberia Industrial Development Foundation. “The proposed employment and capital investment, along with the infrastructure improvements that this project would bring will be a great addition to our community.”

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