Hoke refinery to reopen using tobacco to make ethanol
Posted June 2, 2014
Raeford, N.C. — A Virginia company plans to reopen an ethanol refinery in Hoke County, using tobacco as its primary feedstock, officials said Monday.
The former Clean Burn Fuels biorefinery in Raeford has been idle for more than three years.
Tyton BioEnergy Systems wants to restart the plant as part of its strategy to convert its proprietary tobacco, to be grown regionally, into ethanol. The new operation will generate 79 jobs and invest $36 million over the next three years in Hoke, Wake and other counties, officials said.
The average annual wage for the new jobs will be $43,671, plus benefits. Hoke County's average annual wage is $33,032.
Tyton will initially use corn as the refinery feedstock and then transition to tobacco-sugars as farmers cultivate more acres of the company's so-called "energy tobacco."
The company has developed a tobacco plant that is a dedicated non-food fuel crop. Over the next five years, the company plans to grow its energy tobacco and establish local rural processing facilities to convert it into sugar for ethanol, oil for biodiesel and a “green” byproduct called biochar, which is used as a soil additive in the forestry and agriculture sectors.
“Tyton is committed to delivering value to North Carolina farmers and building the green-fuel basket of the mid-Atlantic through our agriculture and biofuels manufacturing operations” Tyton President Peter Majeranowski said in a statement. “There is a long and important history with tobacco in North Carolina, and we are excited to work with farmers and workers, especially veterans, across the state to create a new green-energy future for tobacco that will bring benefits to the region and world.”
The energy tobacco won't compete with traditional tobacco, but it offers farmers the opportunity to put it in rotation with other row crops or on lands not ideal for other crops, officials said.
“Farmers can get into the energy business and help North Carolina and our nation become energy independent,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. “With North Carolina’s history and expertise in tobacco, this is an excellent opportunity to ensure tobacco farming’s viability.”
Tyton has qualified for a $232,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund, which provides financial assistance to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity in the state. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job and investment targets to obtain the grant funds, which also also are contingent upon local matches.