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Franklin County Plant On Forefront Of Alternative Fuels

Posted February 17, 2006

— It's hard to find alternative fuel in the Triangle. There are only two Crown stations in North Raleigh that sell E-10. That name means 10 percent of the fuel is processed from corn, making a fuel called ethanol.

"I'm not educated on ethanol,” said driver Dickie Britt. “I know there's a lot of talk about manufacturers as well as gas companies...trying to do things.”

One of those manufacturers is the Novozymes plant in Franklin County, which company representatives say is the largest commercial ethanol facility in the United States. It pops up out of Franklinton farmland.

Novozymes doesn't make ethanol. They make the enzyme that fuels the alternative fuel.

“We produce very environmentally friendly products that help ethanol producers turn corn grown in the United States into ethanol,” said Novozymes spokesman Greg LeFebvre.

Novozymes makes 700 tons of its ethanol-enabling enzymes every week. One of the enzymes that's produced there -- spirizyme -- could change the whole energy picture.

“Our product helps extend the gasoline supply in the United States, by using less gasoline that's made from oil that we're importing from other parts of the world, so it reduces our dependence on foreign oil,” said LeFebvre.

But they have a long way to go. Spirizyme is expensive to produce, it's hard to get, and not every engine can handle the mix.

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