April 30-- The Range Fuels plant that was built, opened and shut down over the past few years north of Soperton has new life.
The $100 million dollar facility was sold on the Treutlen County courthouse steps to a New Zealand company for $5 million in January.
Manager Bud Klepper says the original plant ran out of money when venture capitalists and institutional investors decided not to bet on ethanol to supplement the U.S. oil supply. When the investors pulled out, so did the U.S. Department of Energy which was backing the venture with a $78 million federal loan guarantee.
Klepper says the lack of any long term U.S. energy policy is the reason we remain at the mercy of foreign oil and he thinks the newly named "Freedom Pines Biorefinery" in Soperton has a role to play.
"Right now we're in a testing phase. We're rehiring and retraining some of our operations personnel. The plant right now is being tested not only for its suitability for the previous process but also for its suitability for the LanzaTech process," he says.
LanzaTech is a company founded in New Zealand in 2005 and headquartered in Chicago. It uses a gas-liquid fermentation process that produces fuels and chemicals from biomass like pine trees which are plentiful in South Georgia.
"LanzaTech has a very broad spectrum of products they can make with their process and how they intend to do that in the Range Plant is being studied right now," Klepper says.