USDA Awards Funds for Biomass Fuel Facility in Mid-Mo

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COLUMBIA - The United States Department of Agriculture awarded rural development funds to Enginuity Worldwide, LLC Tuesday to help develop a solid biomass fuel production facility in mid-Missouri.

The USDA presented Enginuity Worldwide with a $500,000 Rural Energy for America Program Grant. The funds will be used to produce Environmentally Continuous Annual Renewable Biomass, also known as eCARB fuel, for testing and market commercialization. The eCARB fuel is designed to be used just like coal. The REAP grant will be combined with $1.5 million of private funds from Enginuity Worldwide. The company applied for a REAP grant in May.

"We do not take this lightly. A half of a million dollars is a huge investment," said Janie Dunning, state director for rural development in Missouri for the USDA. "We've got to believe that when we invest that taxpayer money into a company or into a project, that we have the ability to see what it can do for the state and for the nation. We have to give this company a chance to make a difference, and we believe that this is the company that can do it."

The USDA only gave seven REAP awards nationally. Enginuity Worldwide is the only recipient in Missouri.

"I think that if you look around central Missouri, it's a prime location," said Dunning. "We have a lot of support, we have farmers, we have you know, the power companies are totally behind it, they're relying on fuel. We're bringing fuel in from Wyoming. Now this product can help replace that, it can lower the cost, it can lower the carbon emissions, it can bring things to central Missouri and to that state that hasn't been there before."

The facility will use renewable biomass materials to produce 18,000 tons of biomass fuel each year. The fuel will be sold to municipal utilities for electric power generation.

"We feel like we have technologies that can be helpful in transforming in fuel diversity in the case of coal, or actually adding other benefits to biomass for other uses that are higher value," said President of Enginuity Worldwide Nancy Heimann.   

The proposed project is expected to bring 20 jobs to the mid-Missouri area.

"I think you've got to think bigger than just 20 direct jobs, we have to look at the job creation that it can do from an expansion of that," said Dunning. "When the customers aren't paying as much for the fuel, when it's costing less for the power producers to make, when its adding income to farmers, then I think we're looking at job creation that expands more when you look at the economic impact."

Dunning said the future for rural development is bright.

"When you look at rural development and economic development, this project stands to be a model." Said Dunning. "Missouri has the ability to be that model by standing behind this project for any state with whatever that product is, to become self-sufficient. Add those local products to the production, and when that happens we're going to see an amazing result, and Missouri can do it."

The company is looking at several different locations in mid-Missouri.