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Biofuel refinery planned for Adams County
from Staff Reports - NEWS
October 20, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey NATCHEZ, Miss. – A Houston-based company plans to build a biofuels refinery at Adams County’s Belwood industrial site that’s been vacant for nearly 20 years. The Adams County Board of Supervisors approved a deal Thursday to transfer the land to Velocys, which envisions having about 40 employees at a plant that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. It will use wood debris from area timberlands and convert it into fuel.

The county board is providing Velocys $42 million in property tax breaks and another $4 million in site improvements. The county is currently building a levee to protect the 100-acre site from Mississippi River floodwaters. The board will also give Velocys the county-owned Belwood land free if it fulfills its commitment to the number of employees to hire and the amount of money to build the facility, said Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ, the community’s chief industrial recruiter. “Velocys will receive these economic development incentives upon meeting investment and job creation milestones,” Russ said.

While Velocys has operations in Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma and the United Kingdom, the Adams County facility is to be its first U.S. biorefinery. “We are pleased to have Velocys join our growing industrial family,” Adams County board President Mike Lazarus said in a statement issued by Natchez Inc. “These quality jobs, significant investment and purchases of area forestry products will have a huge and meaningful impact on our area and local economy.”

If all goes as planned, Velocys is expected to begin construction in late 2018, said the company’s commercial director, Jeff McDaniel, and take about two years to build. The construction of the refinery is contingent on the completion of the levee the county is having built mostly with federal funds, Russ said. He expressed confidence more federal, state or local funds will come to ensure the levee is finished. The levee’s phase-one construction is expected to be completed in November at a cost of about $900,000.

With another $500,000 federal grant the county received, the Board of Supervisors is seeking construction bidders for the levee’s second phase. County engineer Jim Marlow said it could require $3 million to $4 million to finish the levee in about a year and a half. The Adams County board purchased the Belwood site in 1998 -- the year the same-named country club there closed -- to accommodate industries. However, it’s remained mostly vacant as supervisors failed to lure much business there. The board did sell four acres of it in 2015 to Great River Industries, which has a steel-fabrication plant nearby. The old Belwood golf course on River Terminal Road was used by the country club for 40 years.

The Velocys biorefinery will convert residues from forestry operations into renewable transportation fuels, according to information from Velocys’ website. The process makes diesel and jet fuel through gasification and catalytic synthesis. While the Belwood site is near the Natchez-Adams County Port, Velocys will not be relying much on river barges, McDaniel said. Most of its shipments will be on trucks and railroad cars.

Prior to formally approving the agreement Thursday, county supervisors closed the public out of its meeting for about 40 minutes to discuss it with Brumfield and other Velocys officials. KiOR -- another biofuel production company -- had an option to purchase some of Belwood several years ago. However, that fizzled. The Texas-based company went bankrupt in 2014. KiOR had planned to spend about $200 million to build its Adams County plant and create about 300 jobs, according to information provided by Natchez Inc. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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