Sweetwater Energy, Inc., a Rochester NY-based renewable biochemical producer, announced today that it has received commitment for $26 million in long-term loans from the state of Minnesota to construct a biochemical production facility near Mountain Iron in northeastern Minnesota. The $53 million facility will use local timber to produce high-value industrial alcohol and activated carbon.
“We can’t say enough about how thrilled we are to work with the great people in Minnesota,” says Arunas Chesonis, Chairman and CEO of Sweetwater. “Right from the start they’ve been welcoming and energetic, and we’re looking forward to offering solid employment in the region and expanding there as we grow.”
“This project places northeastern Minnesota into the leading edge of the growing green biotechnology industry,” said Mark Phillips, Minnesota’s Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Commissioner. “It’s an innovative process that makes use of our region’s natural resources, creates new well-paying jobs, and helps diversify the region’s economy.”
The facility will use Sweetwater’s patented biomass processing technology, which splits Minnesota’s local timber and waste wood into valuable sugar and lignin. The sugar is used to create industrial alcohol—a key ingredient of many products, such as cosmetics and detergents—while the lignin is processed into activated carbon, used to purify municipal drinking water and power plant air emissions.
The facility will ultimately provide more than 100 jobs in the region as it is built out over four years. The site has been selected and construction is planned to begin in spring 2016, with completion and operation anticipated for summer 2017.