USDA guarantees $91 million loan for Louisiana biofuel plant

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2014 - USDA says it will guarantee a $91 million loan to help finance an advanced biofuel plant in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.

The plant is being built by a company called Cool Planet at the Port of Alexandria in Louisiana. The loan, by Silicon Valley Bank, is being guaranteed under USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program.

Together we can feed the Bees"

"This partnership is the latest example of the Obama Administration's continuing support for innovative, home-grown energy sources," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "USDA's support for renewable energy projects like this helps create jobs in rural areas, promotes U.S. energy independence, and leads to further expansion of the growing and increasingly significant bioeconomy."

Cool Planet has also attracted private investments from numerous companies, including Google Ventures, BP, ConocoPhillips, GE, Exelon and NRG Energy. USDA said Cool Planet will be contributing $50 million in equity to the project.

USDA's agreement with Cool Planet represents a significant step forward in the government's public-private partnerships to produce renewable energy, USDA said.

The Cool Planet facilities will produce approximately 8 million to 10 million gallons of reformate per year at full capacity. Often referred to as a "drop-in" fuel, reformate is an ingredient in gasoline and jet fuel that can be added during the regular refinery process. Many biofuels, like ethanol, are fuel additives that are instead blended into a finished product to oxygenate fuel. Reformate enhances the energy content of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Pine chips will be the feedstock source for the Cool Planet facility, but the company can use almost any type of renewable cellulosic material.

The plant will also produce biochar, a bioenergy byproduct that has been noted for its ability to sequester carbon and potentially reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

Early last month, Vilsack announced that USDA has issued a conditional commitment on a $105 million loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels, LLC to build a biorefinery in Nevada to produce renewable jet fuel from municipal solid waste.

USDA has awarded conditional commitments for other plants in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Oregon. Sapphire Energy has paid off its USDA loan for a plant now operating in New Mexico.

USDA's loan commitment to Cool Planet is being financed from the remainder of the Biorefinery Assistance Program funds authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. An additional project financed from these funds will be announced later this month. Congress reauthorized and extended the program in the 2014 Farm Bill. It also expanded the program to include bio-based renewable chemicals and bio-based product manufacturing.

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