WisBusiness: Future looking bright for northern Wis. biofuel plant

By Samantha Hernandez

For WisBusiness.com

ASHLAND — Robert Byrne, president of Flambeau River Biofuels, says “the political climate looks really good” for his company’s planned $267 million biorefinery project that will create the country’s first fossil fuel-free integrated pulp and paper mill.

Speaking at the the Lake Superior Technology Conference, Byrne said U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wausau, had been to the plant on Tuesday and Gov. Jim Doyle has shown his support as well. The project — estimated to create about 165 jobs in an area that Byrne describes as “depressed” — has already received a $30 million U.S. Department of Energy grant.

The residents of Park Falls, Wis. should expect to see 60 pulp trucks a day “rumbling through the streets” once the plant is operational, Byrne said. All of the plant’s needed biomass is going to be harvested from places that will do it responsibly and sustainably, he said.

The plant, which is set to break ground spring 2010 in Park Falls. will be built next to the Flambeau River Papers. The biorefinery will be exporting about $10 million a year in steam to the paper mill. 

The plant will use waste wood for fuel. An example of waste wood is the wood left from logging; it would become a product instead of being left to rot, Byrne said. 

Byrnes admits that the plant will need more waste wood than the neighboring paper mill can provide and that there could be competition in the future between the Flambeau River BioFuels and the paper mill.

The new biorefinery will produce Fischer-Tropsch diesel or “green diesel” and Fischer-Tropsch waxes.

The green diesel can be used in automobiles up until winter in an area like Ashland, Byrne said. After about October it would turn to a solid. Flambeau River BioFuels is looking to produce 8 million gallons of the renewable diesel once the plant is operational.

The wax is used in multiple products including candles, hot melt adhesive and wax cardboard boxes. The wax sells for 60 cents a pound and the plant would sell about $50 million worth of wax a year.

“I’m interested in making a few bucks, so we’re going to make all the wax that we can,” Byrne said.