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January 3--  The Range Fuels ethanol plant in Soperton has a new owner.


The facility was sold at public auction Tuesday on the steps of the Treutlen County courthouse in Soperton.  The U.S. Department of Energy provided a $76 million grant in 2007 to explore turning pine trees into cellousic ethanol.  The plant was built in Truetlen County but never reached full capacity.  In January of last year, the plant ceased production due to lack of financing and AgSouth Farm Credit proceeded with foreclosure on an $80 million construction loan.

The new owner is the New Zealand-based energy company LanzaTech which has an U.S. office in Roselle, Illinois.  Company CEO Dr. Jennifer Holmgren bought the plant with a bid of $5.1 million.

"We're developing bio-fuels projects for fuel and chemical production.  We think this is a very nice site, we like the location, the county has treated us great and we like the ability to grow a piece of our company here.  We want to start with small scale units and  then make 100-million gallons or so in production.  We think this is a great place to do it.  The wood basket is here, the interest of the people in the community is here and it would be such a waste to lose the equipment and the work by the people who came before us," she said.

Dr. Holmgren says its too early to say how many jobs will be created or when the plant will resume production.  One of the long term goals is production of jet fuel, she said.