Coming Onto. biofuel refinery to employ 250

Local official: product cleaner than electricity

Vanessa Dietz/Daily Mining Gazette SynSel Energy plans to employ hundreds at an advanced biofuels plant on the site of the former Smurfit-Stone Container paper mill in Ontonagon.

ONTONAGON — Plans to construct an advanced biofuels plant in Ontonagon next summer are moving forward.

Ontonagon’s Lost Bowl Development partnered with SynSel Energy Inc. and a U.S.-based financier to develop a $300 million biorefinery on the site of the town’s former Smurfit-Stone Container paper pill that closed in 2010.

SynSel, of Elmhurst, Illinois, plans to build an identical $300 million plant in Lumberton, Mississippi. Each plant is expected to yield about 250 direct and indirect jobs.

“We are honored to be partnering with SynSel and their financier to help revitalize this county with good paying jobs,” said Pat Tucker, member of the Ontonagon County Economic Development Corp. and president of Lost Bowl Development, current owner of Smurfit-Stone Paper Mill property.

Bound by a confidentiality agreement, Tucker declined to name the company’s financier.

“The worldwide demand for renewable biofuels continues to grow and far exceeds the available supply of the types of biofuel that SynSel will produce,” she said. “Our project financier and business partner sees these trends and has committed to funding 100 plants like the one to be built in Ontonagon.”

The new plant will use the excess waste wood generated by area logging to produce its renewable biofuel.

“The biofuel plant has been in the works for quite sometime,” said Village Council President Ken Waldrop. “As a village council, with all the industry and tourism business that would like to come to Ontonagon, we would love to accommodate and do what we can to not only assist but to make all feel welcome to the area. I know the hours of work put in by Pat Tucker and those working with him are countless. They truly want what is best for our area and have been striving to achieve the end result. Speaking on behalf of the community, I would like to say that it is very much appreciated.”

Tucker said fuel generated directly from the plant can be used in place of gasoline and other fuels and is less harmful to the environment.

“The fuel produced by SynSel can be drop-in ready and is able to directly displace petroleum-based fuels without engine modification or degradation in performance,” Tucker said. “We will be producing a combination of synthetic gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel for sale in the commodity markets and the Department of Defense.

“This eliminates so much greenhouse gases,” he added. “This is cleaner than electric cars.”

Construction funding for both plants has been committed by SynSel’s financier and business partner as the company secures construction project deposits.

“We are nearing final discussions with a number of investors for the project deposit,” Tucker said. “That’s probably 60 to 90 days out. It’s exciting. It’s very, very, very close.”

Tucker expects construction of the plant will start next summer.

He said a second phase of the project will create an energy park, where it is estimated that an additional 200 jobs will be created.

“The biorefinery will serve as the development anchor, and other businesses will be able to take advantage of process waste byproducts like heat to decrease operational expenses. It becomes a win-win-win situation for the business partners the community, and us,” Tucker said.

“We are eager to engage with state, county and community leaders and stakeholders at the appropriate time in the near future,” SynSel CEO Tim Tawoda told the Ironwood Daily Globe.