County board approves modified loan for CE&P

By Kassidi Andres | February 01, 2016

The Imperial County, California, board of supervisors recently approved a modified loan for California Ethanol and Power, a company developing a sugarcane and sweet sorghum ethanol plant in the region.

CE&P received a low-interest loan of $750,000 as part of the Imperial County Agricultural Benefit Program. However, they have applied for a grant for up to an additional $2.5 million. According to David Rubenstein, president and CEO of CE&P, these funds will help expedite financial closing of the project, which is expected by the end of the summer. Construction on the project is currently scheduled to begin before the end of the year.

Earlier this month, CE&P’s sugarcane and sweet sorghum fuel pathways were certified by the California Air Resources Board. The carbon intensity (CI) of the facility’s sugarcane ethanol may be reduced to under 30 grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule (gCO2/MJ) under CARB’s re-adopted modeling for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which is expected to be complete later this year.

With CARB’s new model, the CI of CE&P’s sugarcane ethanol will drop to 26.23 gCO2/MJ, and the sweet sorghum will stand at 40.66 gCO2/MJ. This, according to the company, will bring the blended CI to approximately 32 gCO2/MJ.

“The newly revised carbon intensity pathway for sugarcane ethanol is significant as it establishes CE&P’s ethanol as a prospective fuel with one of the lowest carbon intensity,” said Rubenstein. “Once we are in production and provide operational data, we are eligible to claim credits under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard due to our low carbon intensity relative to petroleum-based gasoline.”

The county seems to have some confidence that CE&P’s project will help it achieve its goals of increasing the number of agricultural jobs and improving the local economy with agricultural production. The project may provide significant advancements for both for the low-carbon ethanol industry and the local economy in Imperial County. 

Additional progress made by CE&P on the project include building entitlements; signing off-take agreements for ethanol, electricity and biogas with Shell Trading Co.; sustaining sugarcane and sorghum feedstocks through additional research; and narrowing down candidates for an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm.