KiOR Vice President of Engineering and Construction Edward J. Smith points to construction underway at KiOR’s plant at the Columbus Port in this file photo. KiOR CEO Fred Cannon announced the $222 million plant is mechanically complete and poised to begin production in the second half of this year. Photo by: Kelly Tippett/Dispatch Staff
May 19, 2012 10:33:39 PM
KiOR officials are fond of noting the company, through its process of converting non-food input into gasoline and diesel, is accelerating something nature has done for a very long time.
And now the development of the plant itself is on an accelerated path, as construction of KiOR's $222 million cellulosic gasoline and diesel plant -- a first for Columbus and beyond -- is complete, ahead of schedule.
"The plant is 100 percent mechanically complete," CEO Fred Cannon confirmed Friday. "It's turned over to operations to start the commissioning process, which is basically getting all the lines (in order), making sure we don't have leaks, checking on the control system and utilities online. This process will take between three and four months. Then, we'll start producing fuel."
While nature takes millions of years to convert biomass into crude oil, KiOR's proprietary catalyst system takes a mere 22 seconds.
Biomass --bark, leaves, wood chips, forest residue and thinnings -- are converted into renewable crude oil in one-second reactions; the product then is hydrotreated and upgraded into renewable fuel, which is the same as petroleum, company officials explained, noting the finished product is not biodiesel and not ethanol, but rather truly a hydrocarbon fuel, with the same energy density as petroleum or diesel.
The finished product easily drops into today's infrastructure and is compatible in all engines, cars and trucks.
The expected product - 11 million gallons of fuel a year - from the Columbus facility was already sold out to Catchlight Energy - a joint venture of Chevron and Weyerhaeuser - FedEx and Hunt Refining Company before ground
Federal targets have been set for the use of biofuels in the U.S. gasoline and diesel markets. These targets are driving the growth of companies like KiOR.
The plant will be the first to make cellulosic fuel on a commercial basis.
"This is the first cellulosic gasoline and diesel program really in the world," Cannon said. "It's enough fuel, when Columbus is up and running at full production, to fuel 60,000 cars each and every year in the United States.
"It's a pretty significant impact on Columbus," he added. "We estimate around $10 million a year in forestry products in that area, directly in that area. And our annual payroll and other operating costs for the plant would be another $15 million to $20 million."
On its website, KiOR lists seven open job positions at it's Columbus location.
Cannon attributed finishing the plant ahead of schedule to "good productivity of the construction workers (and the) great contractors we've used."
Local contractors on the KiOR plant included J5 Construction of Columbus, H&J Security of Columbus, Neel-Schaffer, Inc. of Columbus, Malouf Construction of Starkville, Columbus Fence of Columbus and Golden Triangle Concrete of Columbus.
KiOR officials also acknowledged Columbus Mayor Robert Smith, Lowndes County Port Authority Director John Hardy, Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins and Golden Triangle Regional Airport Executive Director Mike Hainsey for their work in bringing the project to fruition.
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