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“We feel really good about where the project is today from where it was three months ago,” said Roy Hunter, executive director of MSDC.
Hunter called the project “a very costly enterprise. We’re looking at $170 million plus to build the ethanol, biodiesel and biogas and all the other components that go in to make a green energy project.”
The future site for the EcoAlgae plant has still not been determined, said Hunter, though progress on the matter is being made.
In completion of the project, Hunter said, 2000 algae ponds will be constructed across the county, with as many as 2,500 such ponds, eventually. Each pond would be one acre in size.
“If I were a betting man, I’d bet this was going to happen and it’s going to happen in the next 90 days, but, things happen,” Hunter said. “This project is in Saline County because something happened someplace else that brought Frank (Imo) here.”
Imo is a farmer from Montgomery County and a partner in the EcoAlgae project.
This plant would be the first of its kind in the nation.
“It blows my mind to think that we might actually get it here,” said Hunter. “I think that we’ve convinced Frank that this is where it needs to be, now it’s just a matter of getting all the contracts in place.”
He added, “Lieutenant Governor, whatever help you can give us would be immensely helpful.”
Hunter estimated that 40 jobs will be created immediately, with up to 100 over the next two years.
“What a great time to be growing, and in renewable fuels, something that’s going to be around for a long, long time,” said Hunter. “And it’s not the complete answer, but it is part of the answer.”
Kinder mentioned he had been told by some of his rice-farmer friends that the waste stalk of rice, which was previously burned by farmers, has the densest cellulose structure in nature. Though rice is not widely grown in Missouri, it is commonly grown south of his home in Cape Girardeau.
“A lot of us think that, long term, this is more promising that corn ethanol,” said Kinder.
Many waste products, including trash, are able to provide cellulosic ethanol, said Hunter. “It’s an ideal project for agricultural communities.”
“I’m not sure if this board I chair can do anything” to help the project along, said Kinder of the Missouri Development Finance Board, though he said he would look into the possibility.
Imo spoke of an organic fertilizer, called the Montana Micronutrient Booster, which he provided to the Midwest Research Institute, an independent, nonprofit organization, along with about 25 other organizations across the globe. MRI’s findings were that the addition of MMB yielded a total of 300 percent of the algae’s standard growth.
“It’s nice to have these folks on board, saying that what Frank and his group have done is legitimate,” said Hunter.
21 percent of the algae matter is oil, which can be turned into bio-diesel. Another 12 percent is carbohydrates, which can be made into ethanol. Yet another 50 percent is organic protein. Tyson has been involved in talks regarding the possibility of feeding hogs with this protein.
“The main thing algae feeds on is CO2, so we take the CO2 from the ethanol plant and pump it into the algae ponds. It’s a closed-loop system, it’s a negative carbon footprint,” said Imo. “It’s … what our country needs.”
“We think it should be available to chickens, turkeys, everything,” said Hunter. He added that it would relieve the current strain on corn.
“We need everyone around the state to be involved for it to be successful,” said Hunter. “Lieutenant Governor Kinder has a tremendous number of contacts around the state. This is a very big package and involves a lot of people, and we don’t want to have to repackage it every time we sell it.”
“I am vitally concerned about jobs and economic development, and this is a promising project that can lead to both of those,” said Kinder. “I want to be all over this in any way I can … I came to be briefed and give it a boost in whatever way I can.”
During the meeting, the members of MSDC present also discussed with Kinder their desire to further develop the area at the intersection of Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 65.
Some of the problems mentioned include the need for a water tower and about three miles of piping for water service, which Hunter estimated would cost $750,000.
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