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Published: Tuesday, 12/10/2002

Defiance area promising for grain-based fuel production

Ohioans this year will use more than 200 million gallons of ethanol and 1 million gallons of biodiesel, and the Defiance area has surfaced as a promising production site for both growing, typically grain-based fuels, about 150 farmers and other biofuels advocates were told yesterday.

Despite a year-long setback, including returning nearly $1.7 million to investors in a failed initial public offering, Northwest Ethanol LLC hopes to break ground on a Defiance County plant in late spring that could cost as much as $80 million. A different engineering firm and an investment consultant have been hired for the project, which will cost nearly twice as much as originally planned and produce 50 million gallons of ethanol annually, said Lynn Bergman, who is in charge of the project's finances.

“We're still moving ahead,” Mr. Bergman, who was attending the Ohio/Michigan Biofuels Conference in Perrysburg, told The Blade yesterday. “We think there's a pretty good chance we're going to get there.”

Yesterday's conference at the Holiday Inn French Quarter covered a variety of topics, including potential markets for biofuels and items used to make ethanol and biodiesel.

A Memphis consulting firm identified Defiance as one of two places in Ohio where it would make sense to process 9 million bushels of soybeans and make 13 million gallons of biodiesel annually. Washington Courthouse is the other leading candidate, said Rod Frazier, president of Frazier, Barnes & Associates LLC, which was hired by the Ohio Soybean Council this year to study the state's biodiesel production potential.

“These were the best locations that we could find,” he told the conference crowd. “If you were thinking about where to locate a biodiesel plant, Ohio would be a good place to go.”

Mr. Frazier and other experts said yesterday the state is attractive because both Defiance and Washington Courthouse grow sufficient soybeans, it is the third largest user nationwide of traditional diesel, the Ohio Department of Transportation became the nation's largest biodiesel user by filling its fleets with a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel, and more than 400 million gallons of the biofuel could be used nationwide by the end of the decade.

Used as a gasoline additive, meanwhile, ethanol has both a head start on biodiesel and a larger potential, since nearly four times more gasoline is used than diesel nationally, speakers admitted yesterday.



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