ODC approves Project Green Freedom
Oct 14, 2011 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
ODESSA, Texas -- The partnership between the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and Los Alamos National Laboratory has yielded positive results for the two entities with the Odessa Development Corp. approving to fund Project Green Freedom during the ODC's monthly meeting Thursday.
ODC members agreed to fund the synthetic fuel project at a rate of $100,000 per year for four years. The move follows Midland City Council's approval Tuesday for the Midland Development Corp. to fund the project at $150,000 a year for four years.
Though not stated during the meeting, UTPB president David Watts said the money from development corporations could create more than 1,000 jobs.
ODC president Austin Keith said the ODC approved the development agreement based on ODC's mission to help "build a skilled and educated workforce," which is one of ODC's missions outlined in the general development plan.
"It's an investment in the university. We have a responsibility to support our educational efforts," Keith said. "We've been blessed in that the ODC has the funds available to support those efforts."
During the meeting, ODC member Kris Crow did question Watts how the project would benefit the community. Watts did not explain an exact return on investment but alluded to UTPB's engineering programs as a point of success.
"We will return a good value for the citizens, taxpayers, of Ector County," Watts said.
Project Green Freedom is a collaborative effort between UTPB and Los Alamos to create synthetic fuel by extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and hydrogen from water.
With the funding agreements, Watts said the next phase of the project will be to construct a demonstration plant at the Center for Economic Energy and Diversification. The plant will be operational and will be operated by UTPB engineering students, Watts said.
Watts said development corporation money will go toward personnel support, while private companies will fund the demonstration process. Los Alamos liaison manager Jeff Martin said he is currently in discussion with Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric and French-based nuclear power company Areva for possible private funds.
Through Project Green Freedom, UTPB and Los Alamos officials are hoping to create gasoline from natural gas and other elements extracted from the air, Watts said.
The first stage of the project was conducted in 2010, demonstrating the ability to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and separate hydrogen from water. Watts said the next stage is to make a liquid fuel from natural gas.
Watts said through the process, Los Alamos scientists calculated a production cost of $2.25 cents per gallon.
"There's a real financial incentive to test this technology, and, while it has different components, none of the components are new," Watts said. "What's new is putting the components together to produce fuel."
Watts said without the ODC funds, he would have to release UTPB professor and project director of HT3R Jim Wright. HT3R is a project to build a thermal reactor in Andrews County. As project director, Wright is supported primarily through federal and local funds.
"Without the external support, the infrastructure, the knowledge, the expertise that we've built in this area -- I'm not sure how to do this," Watts said. "The risk of the project dying from lack of support is small at this time thanks to the ODC."
In other business, the ODC met in executive session to discuss a development agreement for Project Echo, also known as Permian Tank and Manufacturing. Following the closed session, ODC members agreed to fund the local business for $841,500 for five years total.
The ODC agreement stipulates that Permian Tank must add 37 new jobs within a year beginning Thursday for funding to begin. The company currently has 156 employees and must have a total of 193 employees within the year, Chamber of Commerce Director of Business Retention and Expansion Arleene Loyd said.
Once Permian Tank meets its initial criteria, Loyd said the company will have a year to maintain its employees or add new employees before it receives one-fifth of its total incentive.
"It's a rewarding incentive to a company that's such a big part of Odessa's economy," Loyd said of Permian Tank, which has been in Odessa for 35 years. "They're about to reap some of the benefits that they have created in the economy of Odessa."
Project Green Freedom and Project Echo will both be presented in front of the Odessa City Council for final approval.
ODC members also approved of a resolution to declare support for Proposition 2, which was passed by the Texas Legislature to fund water infrastructure projects in municipalities.
Residents will be able to vote for or against the amendment on the next Election Day on Nov. 8.
If passed, the Texas Water Development Board could issue bonds not exceeding $6 billion for water-related projects.
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