Flambeau River Biorefinery awaits financing

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy
Flambeau River Papers LLC-a Park Falls, Wis., paper mill-plans to replace 1 trillion British thermal units of natural gas and coal with biomass left over from logging operations. At press time, the company was evaluating quotes to determine if it would replace its fossil fuel boilers with a less expensive biomass boiler or a gasifier, which can also produce biofuels, explained Ben Thorp, president of Flambeau River Biorefinery LLC. He said the decision should be made within a couple of months and is dependent upon financing from banks, financial institutions and USDA loan guarantees.

The company's other biomass venture is also waiting on funding. Flambeau River Biorefinery is a 20 MMgy cellulosic ethanol biorefinery under development. It will utilize a patent-pending process technology called AVAP, which was developed by Atlanta-based American Process Inc. to convert the hemicellulose in spent pulping liquor (or black liquor) into ethanol. The biorefinery will be collocated with the paper mill. Pilot trials have been done at forest service labs in Madison, Wis., Thorp said. The trials are to refine the process, develop alternative equipment, and make the process more efficient and economically attractive. "We need to refine the project more to get it funded, which we're doing," Thorp said.

Flambeau River Papers is applying for U.S. DOE grant money, and Thorp said he expects a response late this year. The company is also investigating funding opportunities with major corporations. Construction is estimated to take 16 to 20 months, and will start once financing and permitting are complete. Permits will be expedited under Wisconsin's "Green Tier" program.