Oregon torrefaction company scores second USDA grant

By Anna Austin | July 13, 2011

Oregon-based torrefaction plant developer HM3 Energy Inc. said USDA has notified the company that its National Institute of Food and Agriculture Small Business Innovative Research phase 2 grant proposal has been accepted, and the company will receive $500,000 pending final administrative review.

HM3 received $90,000 in phase 1 of the program, to develop an economical method to remove almost all rocks and soil from wet and dirty forest waste feedstock without using water. Spokeswoman Mary McSwain said the phase 2 grant will help the company with construction of HM3’s equipment testing and process demonstration facility in Troutdale, Ore., in preparation for its first commercial torrefaction plant to be located in Prineville, Ore.

HM3 is close to securing about half of the funds—$6 million— needed to build the commercial plant, McSwain said, through the government’s EB-5 Program. The EB-5 Program was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.

The commercial-scale 45,000-ton-per-year torrefied biomass pellet facility is scheduled to be completed by early 2013, and will process about 5.5 dry tons of biomass per hour in phase one; 11 tons per hour in a later phase.

McSwain said HM3 still needs to raise additional funding to complete the demo plant, as well as the remainder of funding needed for the first commercial plant. She added that HM3 is currently in discussions with two large investors, but could not reveal more information because of nondisclosure agreements.