Plans moving ahead for bio-refinery in Park Falls - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Plans moving ahead for bio-refinery in Park Falls

By Heather Sawaski - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

PARK FALLS (WAOW) -- Flambeau River Papers in Park Falls is going to get a little greener.

Company leaders say when the new biomass plant is complete, the mill will use all of its waste energy, making it the first mill in North America not to use any fossil fuels. That's a far cry from where the future of the paper mill stood just over 4 years ago. That's when CEO Butch Johnson bought it out of bankruptcy. That's when the idea of a biomass refinery in the Northwoods started to take shape.

"We're no smarter than the guys before us that went bankrupt," Johnson explained. "What can we do differently with our operation so we can ensure our employees, our partners in our project that we're going to keep going? So we looked at a green initiative from the get go."

The $300 will convert biomass from bark and sawdust into diesel for domestic markets.

 Johnson says between logging, construction, and operation, the plant will bring in hundreds of jobs.

"We buy currently about 140,000 cords of wood for this paper mill," he said. "With the bio-refinery, we would be buying an additional 365,000 cords of wood."

The project's already received millions of dollars in state and federal funding. The Secretary of Wisconsin's Department of Administration says bringing biomass to the Northwoods will help the state keep its competitive advantage when it comes to green energy.

"The days of pumping oil from the gulf to power the economy are going away and we think that should be a good thing for Wisconsin and the north to take advantage of that," explained Dan Schooff. "This a perfect example of that. If we do this first and if we do it best, other people are going to come to us for the technology."

Johnson says all the agreements have been signed with companies willing to purchase the sulfur-free diesel. Right now, company leaders are looking for more private investors for the project.

Leaders plan to break ground this Spring. They're hoping the refinery is up an running by 2013.

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