Advanced biorefinery proposed for eastern North Dakota

By Ann Bailey | August 24, 2016

A biorefinery proposed to be built in Grand Forks, North Dakota, would transform low-value agricultural byproducts, including sugar beet tailings, wheat straw and potato waste, into biofuel. The North Dakota Ag Products Utilization Commission recently awarded the Red River BioRefinery LLC project $84,000 for engineering.

Keshav Rajpal of Middleton, Wisconsin, is listed as chief operating officer on the APUC application and Jacek Chmielewski is named principal. In April 2015, Chmielewski wrote a letter to the North Dakota Industrial Commission that said his company, BioMass Solution LLC, was re-applying formally for the North Dakota Industrial Commission Renewable Energy Grant program. The application from Chmielewski, who listed his return address on the letter as Middleton, was for funding to develop a small-scale distributed advanced ethanol plant in Grand Forks that would use sugar beet tailings from the production process of four nearby American Crystal Sugar plants as feedstock for the production of fuel-grade ethanol. The application said the plant also would produce high-quality animal feed as a byproduct.

The BioMass Solution LLC plant was to be located in an industrial development in the northern part of Grand Forks with an annual capacity of 8 million gallons of fuel ethanol. The BioMass Solution LLC grant application said it anticipated the plant would produce 17,000 tons annually of dry distillers’ solids, water and carbon dioxide byproducts. The estimated cost of the BioMass Solution project was $1 million, the grant application said.

Rajpal told Ethanol Producer Magazine that while the Red River BioRefinery project is similar to the BioMass Solution LLC project, there are some differences in plant capacity and other production details. Rajpal declined to give specifics on the Red River BioRefinery project, citing proprietary concerns. “We want to get things completely locked down before we say what we’re doing,” he said.

According to Rajpal’s application to APUC, Red River BioRefinery would produce fuel that would be sold to transportation fuel refiners and blenders across the United States and Canada.

“CHS Inc. has reviewed the production plants and committed to sell and market the entire production capacity of the plant,” Rajpal said in the APUC application. The fuel has an above-market value because of its carbon intensity, so it primarily will be sold to markets with low carbon fuel standards in California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Quebec, the application said.

Lana Jordan, corporate communications director at CHS, said the Red River BioRefinery project still was in the development stage so CHS was not making any public statements about it.