$5 million waste biomass processing plant planned in Michigan

By Anna Simet | July 14, 2014

BioCycle plans to make use of agricultural scrap and waste materials and other biomass sources as manufacturing precursors, via a $5 million bioprocessing facility that is currently in final financing stages.

According to President and CEO Kevin Karpinski, BioCycle was launched after three years of planning, research, materials testing and product development in collaboration with Michigan State University College of Engineering and the Michigan Biotechnology Institute. Its extensive testing includes work at Ford Motor Co. in Clawson, Michigan, Karpinski said.

Materials to be produced by BioCycle include engineered biobased filler for cement and concrete production, cellulose for industrial filtration, injectable filler to replace mined Talc, and biobased carbon fiber production and fermentable sugars for testing as a high performance fuel. 

Karpinski said that materials the facility will use include ag materials such as corn stover, hybrid willow trees and distillery waste, and that the company has 10 letters of intent for feedstock supply from companies that include as Traverse Bay Manufacturing Company, Grand Traverse Distillery and Marquette Green Energy.

Taking waste from ethanol plants may also be an option, Karpinski said, for those who are not using their waste for energy production. “Some are capitalizing on lower natural gas prices, so for some cellulosic ethanol plants, they might pay us $5 per ton to haul away waste for them.”

The 50,000-square-foot refining, production and processing site will be located at the former KL Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette County, Michigan. Karpinski said financing is being provided by Noah Bank in New York, and that site work is on track to begin in early September.

Karpinski added that though some in the Marquette County region are skeptical due to cellulosic ethanol developer Mascoma’s failure, most are excited about the BioCycle and its process. He expects the facility to create up to 19 jobs—3 to 4 of which will be at the plant to operate the reactor system.