Ethanol Plant Proposed for Northampton, Pa., Site

Northampton could become home to the first ethanol-producing plant on the East Coast.

Jan. 13—Northampton could become home to the first ethanol-producing plant on the East Coast.

On Thursday, a newly formed company called Green Renewable Energy, Ethanol and Nutrition of The Lehigh Valley presented the Northampton Planning Commission a plan to build a $70 million plant to produce an alcohol additive for gasoline on the site of the former Atlas Cement plant.

Commission member Richard Ackerman, who traveled to Wisconsin to see an ethanol plant in operation, called the proposal a "win-win for everyone."

He said the plant he toured was clean and the only odor he detected was a faint aroma of corn flakes.

Jeff Dersham, president of Green Renewable Energy, said the plant, which would occupy about 8 acres owned by Horwith Leasing, would ferment and distill ethanol from cracked corn. He said the plant would use excess steam from the Northampton Generating Plant and discharge water from Newstech, both of which are on adjacent property. He said company would use 44 old cement silos from Atlas to store the corn.

Dersham said the company wants to build the plant, which would employ 50 to 60 people, because of the availability of corn and the nearness of fuel blending facilities. He estimated 40 percent of the 20 million bushels of corn used annually at the plant would be grown locally.

Dersham said two by-products of ethanol processing are carbon dioxide and distillers grain, which is corn that has had the starch removed. He said distillers grain has three times the protein of regular corn and is ideal feed for animals.

"We are getting the most out of the kernel of corn," Dersham said.

Dersham said the plant would produce 50 million gallons of ethanol, 160,000 tons of grain and 160,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Industrial uses of ethanol include perfumes, after-shaves and cleaners. Carbon dioxide is given off in great quantities during fermentation and many ethanol plants collect that carbon dioxide, clean it of any residual alcohol, compress it and sell it for use to carbonate beverages or in the flash freezing of meat.

Bernie Hoffman of ICM, the company that developed the technology for the plant, said there is a growing demand for distillers grain overseas.

Hoffman said the ethanol industry is projecting it will use 31/4 billion gallons by the end of the year, and is growing at 800 million gallons a year.

Hoffman said some states use ethanol in a 10 percent blend in gasoline but other "more progressive" countries use as much as 22 percent.

"The potential in the United States is huge," he said.

Hoffman said if the project is approved he anticipates the company would break ground in the fall and the plant would be finished by summer 2006.

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