Biodiesel business gets green light

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2006

JACKSON – Growth continues in Northampton County.

Monday afternoon a company owned by two natives of the county announced plans to construct a Biodiesel plant near Seaboard.

The announcement came after the Northampton County Commissioners took steps to allow the facility to locate in their county.

North Carolina BioFuels, LLC. filed a request to be granted a Special Use Permit to construct the Biodiesel production facility.

Monday, the county board conducted a public hearing to gauge public reaction to the request and to hear from North Carolina BioFuels.

Randy Edwards, the managing member of the group who will own the business, appeared before the board offering the company’s reasoning for wanting to locate in Northampton County, a definition of Biodiesel and reports on emissions, environmental impact and construction.

According to Edwards, there was a numerous list of reasons the company chose Northampton County, but some of the main reasons included the limited supply of Biodiesel on the interstate highways in the county, the agricultural orientation of the county, the fact that it was an ideal site for the project and that the two founders were natives of Northampton County.

&uot;We still own property here and we’re proud to be a part of Northampton County,&uot; Edwards said.

He went on to say Biodiesel was a domestic, renewable fuel to be run in diesel engines only derived from natural oil seeds such as soybean oil.

Edwards also gave a long list of those who purchase Biodiesel, including NASA, the United States military and others. He indicated talks with the North Carolina Department of Transportation led him to believe they would begin buying Biodiesel when it was more readily available.

When North Carolina BioFuels builds near Seaboard, they will become the first Biodiesel plant in North Carolina. Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee have two plants or less each and West Virginia has none.

According to Edwards’ figures, 500,000 gallons of Biodiesel was produced in 1999. That figure rose to 20 million gallons in 2003 and went t 70-plus million gallons last year.

In addition to Edwards, Frank Willey is the Project Manager and will become Production Manager for the plant. Both Edwards and Willey are from Northampton County and both were educated at North Carolina State University.

The plant will be located on seven-plus acres east of Seaboard at the site of an old plant that has been abandoned for more than 15 years.

First, it will begin in one building where Carroll’s Foods once had a parts depository. This will happen while an Environmental Impact Study is being done on the property on which the new facility will be built.

According to Edwards, after the assessment, the company will purchase the property, remove the abandoned buildings and begin construction of the large-scale production facility.

Edwards then listed the following benefits to Northampton County:

* rehabilitation of an abandoned site;

* supply of agriculture industry;

* producing an environmentally friendly production facility and product; and

* creation of new jobs.

After Edwards’ presentation, Commissioner James Hester (D-1st) asked what the cost of Biodiesel would be compared to regular diesel.

Edwards said it currently was roughly the same, but bills in the United States Congress and the North Carolina General Assembly could help bring the cost lower.

Hester also asked if the company would use locally produced soybeans.

Edwards said the answer was yes and no. He said the company would buy the seed oil from Perdue Farms, who did buy some soybeans locally.

Commissioner Robert V. Carter (D-2nd) asked how many would be employed when the plant was at full strength and was told it would be eight to 10.

After the public hearing was closed, Carter moved to grant the special use permit and Hester seconded his motion. It passed unanimously.

Later, after a closed session deliberation, commissioners voted to follow an Economic Development Board request to provide a $10,000 incentive grant to North Carolina BioFuels.

Economic Development Director Gary Brown presented the EDC board’s request after the closed session. Carter moved to provide the $10,000 for use with the environmental assessment and remediation costs and Commissioner Fannie P. Greene offered a second. It also passed without objection.