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A biofuel plant for Columbus




In 2011, Columbus will be home to a cutting-edge biofuel production site, potentially paving the way for more renewable energy sources. 


KiOR got its start in 2007, when it also announced to Technology Review it could create "biocrude" from almost any agricultural byproduct, including chipped wood and corn stalks. 


The technology represents a notable step toward self sustainability for the country, and Columbus will be home to KiOR''s first commercial plant -- 50 times the size of the demo plant, according to KiOR''s website.  


KiOR''s demonstration plant just outside Houston, Texas can produce 15 barrels of renewable crude oil substitute per day, converting wood and other biowaste into fuel. 


Turning biomass into liquid transportation fuel could mean less dependency on other fuel sources, including deep-sea drilling. 


With a $110 million local investment by KiOR and less than $1 million in cost to local public bodies, up to a thousand jobs and $500 million invested throughout the state (The company plans to build three plants in Mississippi.) and immeasurable benefits for the environment, the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link has hit a serious home run wooing this project. 


The plant itself will even harvest the steam and electricity created while converting biowaste into fuel and pump it back into the plant. 


The project certainly seems like a win for all. But the jury''s still out on the possible environmental effects of the plant. 


At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Haley Barbour said the process produces "virtually no waste or emissions." But company officials Thursday wouldn''t comment on the specifics of the process or the potential for pollution from the production site. We hope for and expect more clarity on those questions soon. 


The conversion of trees to oil, caused by a reaction with a catalyst, also produces water, coke and light gases as byproducts.  


Though we''re cautious about the impact of the plant, we''re cautiously optimistic. We welcome this new industry -- and the jobs it will create -- to Columbus.



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