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August 08, 2012

Fulcrum Sierra 'Goes to Waste' to Make Advanced Biofuels with USDA Loan



Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack has announced a $105 million loan guarantee to Fulcrum (News - Alert) Sierra BioFuels, LLC, to finance development of a ground-breaking facility in Storey County, Nevada, to convert municipal solid waste into advanced biofuels. Once operational, the plant is expected to convert 147,000 tons of processed municipal solid waste into over 10 million gallons of advanced biofuels annually, using a two-part thermo-chemical process.

"The time is now to embrace alternative American-produced feedstocks that support our nation's energy independence, provide jobs in rural areas, and support the Obama Administration's 'all of the above' energy strategy," Vilsack said. "At USDA we are focused on the production of renewable energy from a wide variety of non-food sources, including waste, algae, wood, and switch grass as a long-term solution to America's energy needs. The facility we are announcing today … is a perfect example of how producing home-grown energy is good for the economy and good for our energy future."

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Based in Pleasanton, California, the operator, Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels is a privately held company that focuses on developing facilities that convert municipal solid waste and other waste products to a low-cost, reliable and environmentally clean renewable transportation fuel.

USDA, through its Rural Development Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill), approved an 80 percent loan guarantee to finance the project, with a conditional commitment that Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, LLC, must meet before loan closing.

The Biorefinery Assistance Program, administered by Rural Development's Business and Cooperative Service, is designed to financially assist with the commercial deployment of production technologies to produce advanced biofuels, and thereby increase the energy independence of the United States; promote resource conservation, public health, and the environment; diversify markets for agricultural and forestry products and agriculture waste material; create jobs and enhance the economic development of the rural economy.

This week’s announcement is part of a larger, three-part USDA initiative:

  • Biorefineries: The agency has funded seven additional biorefineries in states from Florida and Michigan to New Mexico, where a variety of feedstocks are being used, including agriculture residue, woody biomass, municipal solid waste, and algae
  •  Research and development: USDA also is investing in feedstock research by coordinating with five regional R&D centers
  • Feedstocks: To encourage the production of advanced biofuels from non-food, non-feed sources, USDA has incentivized farmers to grow advanced feedstocks on nearly 60,000 acres

The newly funded plant, which will be located just 20 miles east of Reno, is expected to create an estimated 430 jobs during construction and 53 permanent jobs. According to Channel 2 News in Nevada, Reno and the rest of the state are badly in need of jobs. Although Nevada's unemployment rate is 11.6 percent, more than one in five people in the Silver State do not have a full-time job. The U-6 unemployment rate is a broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, and part-time workers who want a full-time job. Nevada's rate is the highest in the nation at 22.1 percent. Those numbers are continuing to improve, but very slowly.

Creating new markets for the nation's agricultural products through bio-based manufacturing is one of the many steps the Administration has taken over the past three years to strengthen the rural economy. Since August 2011, the White House Rural Council has supported a broad spectrum of rural initiatives, including a Presidential Memorandum to create jobs in rural America through bio-based and sustainable product procurement and a $350 million commitment in Small Business Administration funding to rural firms over the next five years.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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