Feds plan biomass projects in Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Feds plan biomass projects in Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas

TOLEDO, OH (AP) - Federal authorities are announcing new projects that will turn tall grass into fuel and have the potential to bring 4,000 jobs to Ohio, Arkansas and Missouri.

Agriculture officials are planning to spend $5.7 million this year to enroll farmers in seven counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania to grow the hybrid grass that can grow up to 13 feet high.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said Wednesday that Cleveland-based Aloterra Energy will operate a biomass plant in northeast Ohio that could create as many as 1,200 jobs.

Two more projects are going to central and southwest Missouri while another one will be put in northeast Arkansas.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the grass can be turned into energy and used for heat, power and biofuels.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - On Wednesday,  MFA Oil announced its partnership with Aloterra Energy.

Their goal:  to produce a renewable energy crop.

That means big bucks for hundreds of farmers, and jobs for hundreds of workers.

"What comes after corn based, and soybean based transportation fuels is the biomass industry," said MFA Oil President, Jerry Taylor.

An industry that will plant roots in Northeast Arkansas specifically in Greene and Craighead counties.

"That's why we're looking at a crop that will produce a massive amount of cellulose," said Taylor.

That crop is  miscanthus, a tall, grassy plant from Japan that looks like sage grass.

Taylor says a number of attributes make it the best crop they know of today to produce biomass.

"We'll start with pelletizing and that's just simply densifying the product to be burned in utilities, to be shipped by rail to other places," said Taylor.

Taylor says there are many stages and processes that can go on in the next few years. Ultimately leading the miscanthus to turn into a cash crop for hundreds in the area.  

"The independent economic study that we had done said in the area of 900 jobs.   150 or so directly with the operation and the rest of them in jobs that are going to have to be there like trucking to move this type of product where it needs to move," said Taylor.

Taylor says there is a 50 mile project area defined for the production and  processing of the biomass, with Paragould being the center of the area. He says more than 100 farmers have expressed interest.

"The farmer prepares the ground. We go in and put the rhizomes in the ground because we have the equipment to do that," said Taylor.

Taylor says they're hoping to plant those rhizomes in the designated area in the spring, but the crop won't actually be processed for a couple of years.

"At that point it's a perennial.   At that point it takes very little effort and very little additional inputs, you just go take the crop off every year," said Taylor.

Joey Massey is a board director for the MFA Midsouth district. He says the scale of this project will be determined by whether or not the project is approved by the USDA. MFA says it will know in two weeks if their designated areas are selected. For more information about this project, we have linked MFA Oil's website to ours.  

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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