Ferndale biorefining firm earns $4.6M federal grant

A Ferndale company has been awarded a $4.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop an innovative pilot-scale biorefinery that will test renewable biofuels as a domestic alternative to power cars, trucks and planes that meet military specifications for jet fuel.

Mercurius Biorefining Inc. of Ferndale will build and operate a pilot plant that will convert cellulosic biomass, including materials such as wood chips, into biofuels.

The Mercurius Biofuels plant is part of an $18 million investment by federal energy officials for four projects across the country that will demonstrate technologies to cost-effectively convert biomass into advanced drop-in biofuels and assist these organizations to scale up the processes to commercial levels.

Karl Seck, the company’s president and CEO, told The Bellingham Herald that the biorefinery plant for the project will be built in Indiana, although the company’s headquarters will remain in Ferndale. Mercurius is joined by several partner organizations, including Purdue University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Incitor.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, in a statement, that advanced biofuels are a key component to the Obama Administration’s strategy to reduce American dependence on foreign oil, improve energy security and protect the nation’s air and water.

“The innovative biorefinery projects announced [April 22] mark an important step toward producing fuels for our American military and the civil aviation industry from renewable resources found right here in the United States.” Chu said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state also praised the announcement in a press statement.

“Creating a biofuels industry that will mean jobs for our state and energy independence for our nation requires us to bring innovators together, and this critical investment will continue that process,” Murray said.

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