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Consultant says beans could fuel new jobs

February 24, 2007|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A facility that would use soybeans to produce 30 million gallons of biodiesel fuel per year would be a nice fit for Washington County, according to a Salida, Colo.-based consultant.

A feasibility study by the consultant, BBI International, states the Hagerstown area produces enough soybeans to support the facility.

The Washington County Commissioners are expected to discuss the study at Tuesday's commissioners meeting.

Chesapeake Bio-Energy LLC, a group of investors, has been eyeing the county as a possible site for a plant, county officials said in August.

The plant would require 21 million bushels of soybeans per year to produce 30 million gallons of biodiesel fuel annually, according to the study.

Robin L. Ferree, business development specialist for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said the plant would cost between $80 million and $100 million and create about 25 jobs.

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Aside from the capital investment benefit for the county, local farmers also could benefit from the plant.

"It's going to be a market for local soybean production," Ferree said.

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 such as soybean meal, soy hulls and glycerin, county officials have said.

Biodiesel also is more environmentally friendly than regular diesel, officials have said.

The consultant has recommended the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc. (CHIEF) complete a number of steps to push the project forward, including seeking seed financing so a business plan can be developed.

CHIEF arranged the contract with BBI International for the study.

The commissioners in August agreed to contribute up to $18,000 and backed a state grant that would pay up to $42,000 for the study.

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