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Investors consider county for biodiesel plant

August 08, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A bioenergy company that would use soybeans to produce 30 million gallons of biodiesel fuel a year is looking at Washington County as a possible site for a facility.

Local economic development and agriculture officials said such a plant would be good news for the county's farmers, because locally grown soybeans would be used to make the alternative fuel.

The county is one of several places that Chesapeake Bio-Energy LLC, a group of investors, is considering for the $90 million to $100 million facility, according to information included with the meeting agenda for today's Washington County Commissioners' meeting.

Tim Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said Monday that the company would create about 40 jobs.

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The availability of rail service and highways has put Washington County in a position to land the facility, Troxell said. The company is looking at several 60-acre rail-served sites in the county.

The plant would crush more than 21 million bushels of soybeans to produce 30 million gallons of biodiesel fuel in a year, as well as create soy coproducts like soybean meal, soy hulls and glycerin, according to the county information.

Jeff Semler, agricultural and natural resources extension educator for the Washington County Cooperative Extension, part of the University of Maryland, said biodiesel is created from soybean oil.

Semler said biodiesel has several advantages, including providing a more environmentally friendly fuel than regular diesel. It also can add to the life on an engine and is cheaper than regular diesel.

Troxell and Semler, who has been part of discussions with Chesapeake Bio-Energy, said the company would buy soybeans from local farmers - which would raise profits - and from out of the area.

Farmers likely would support a biodiesel facility in Washington County, Semler said.

"Surely, I think they would ..." he said.

Attorney George Robinson, who represents the investors, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Information about the investors was not available Monday.

Troxell is to ask the County Commissioners today to endorse a grant of up to $42,000 from the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund. The grant would go toward the cost of a study on the feasibility of building the facility in Washington County.

The commissioners would pay up to $18,000 of the study, if approved.

The total cost of the study would be as much as $60,000.

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