Ground broken on new biofuels plant in Geismar

Aaron Looney
Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks Monday during the groundbreaking event for a new biofuels plant in Geismar created by Dynamic Fuels, the partnership between Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corp. The plant will convert chicken fat into clean-burning biodiesel fuels. Officials say when the plant is operational by the end of 2009, it will be the first of its kind in the nation.

GEISMAR?– State and local dignitaries joined representatives of Dynamic Fuels Monday morning to break ground on what will be the first biofuels plant of its kind in the state.

Dynamic Fuels, the $150 million joint venture between Tyson Foods and Syntoleum Corporation, officially started construction of a facility that will use animal fat and agriculture waste to produce biodiesel and jet fuel.

The first facility will produce 75 million gallons of synthetic fuel annually, according to officials with Dynamic Fuels.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, keynote speaker at the event, said that the Ascension Parish plant will be the first of its kind and would play a great part in keeping the state’s college graduates here.

“This is the first fuel production facility of this kind in the entire United States, and we are very proud to have it right here in Louisiana,”?Jindal said. “In addition to creating unique, renewable fuels, this plant will also create great high-paying and high-skilled jobs and a multi-million dollar payroll.

“Developing alternative sources of energy is a vital part of the future of our nation's economy, and as such, this investment here in Louisiana will serve as a catalyst for greater business expansion and job creation."

The plant is scheduled to be complete by the last quarter of 2009, with production  targeted for 2010.

The project will generate approximately 250 short-term construction jobs and 65 highly skilled permanent jobs, officials said.

“Those are good paying jobs and the kinds of jobs that will keep our young people here in Louisiana,”?Jindal said.

The plant will be located on 20 acres leased at the Lion Copolymer site, located off Hwy. 30.

Once in operation, the facility will employ 45 people at an average annual salary of $85,000, and generate an annual payroll of more than $4 million, plus 20 full-time equivalent maintenance contractors.

The projected cost of the new plant is $138 million. Capital funding is expected to include $100 million in Gulf Opportunity Zone Bonds previously approved by the Louisiana State Bond Commission. The balance of $38 million is being funded through equity contributions in the form of cash commitments in equal proportions from Tyson and Syntroleum.

“We extend our sincere thanks to the state of Louisiana and Ascension Parish for their support of this important project,” said Jeffrey Bigger, director of the Dynamic Fuels LLC Management Committee. “We believe our fuels will appeal to the operators of fleet vehicles and city buses who want to reduce emissions, as well as the military and commercial airlines seeking ultra-clean renewable jet fuel."

Dynamic Fuels will convert fats, grease and oils supplied by Tyson Foods into fuel. Low grade fats and greases will be the primary feedstocks because the cost is typically cheaper than vegetable oils and because it does not impact the human food supply.

The fuel produced by the venture will offer the same benefits of synthetic fuels derived from coal or natural gas, including substantial performance and environmental advantages over petroleum- based fuels. Its benefits will include high combustion quality, cleaner emissions and lower engine operating temperature, making it suitable for all climates and for arctic and jet fuel applications.The renewable synthetic diesel fuel will be sold in the U.S. within the existing diesel fuel distribution system.

Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, who now works as a lobbyist for Breaux-Lott Leadership Group for companies including Tyson Foods, served as master of ceremonies at the ground-breaking.

“This is a landmark moment for Louisiana and Ascension Parish,” Breaux said. “This fuel burns as clean as water with a light smell. It’s making something out of nothing, in a way.”

Parish President Tommy Martinez said the parish will contribute a 1 percent sales tax rebate of up to $600,000 as a match to a a $400,000 state economic development grant for the project. The money will be used to build a rail spur on the site to allow for transport of materials.

Martinez said the plant will generate $30 million in sales tax revenues for the parish in the next 10 years

“This is the first refinery to totally be located in Ascension Parish,”?Martinez said. “This proves that Ascension Parish has the infrastructure to hold such operations and also helps us to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Breaking ground for the new Dynamic Fuels biofuels plant in Geismar are, from left: Tyson Foods President/CEO Richard Bond, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain. U.S. Rep. Don Cazayoux, Louisiana Department of Economic Development Director Stephen Moret, Tyson Foods founder Don Tyson, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, Advanced Biofuels Coalition Executive Director Mike McAdams, Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez and state Rep. Elton Aubert.