Monday, March 5, 2012

Firm plans glycerin refinery

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Saturday, March 3, 2012 12:12 AM CST

Owensboro Grain Co.’s 5-year-old biodiesel plant has been running at 100 percent capacity for the past 10 months, pumping out nearly 4 million gallons of fuel a month, Jeff Erb, the company’s chief financial officer, said Friday.

Now, the 106-year-old Owensboro company is getting ready to build a $15 million to $20 million glycerin refinery near the biodiesel plant on Ewing Road, with plans to refine 40 million pounds a year of the product that’s used in cosmetics.

“Proctor & Gamble, which is based in Cincinnati, is one of the biggest buyers of glycerin in the world,” Erb said. “It makes sense for us to do this.”

Crude glycerin is a byproduct of the biodiesel process, he said. The new refinery will turn it into pure glycerin for the cosmetics market.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s office announced Friday that the state’s Agricultural Processing Loan Program has approved a $1.5 million processing loan for Owensboro Grain to build the refinery.

Erb said the new plant, scheduled to be in operation by the summer of 2013, will employ from 10 to 12 people with an average salary of $50,000-plus.

“These are very good jobs,” he said. “There aren’t many of them because the refinery will be highly automated.”

The biodiesel refinery also employs about 10 to 12 people, Erb said.

“In the last decade, we’ve probably added 50 good paying jobs here,” he said.

Erb said he’s not sure of the total cost of the new refinery because it’s being built by a German company and the price will be in euros.

“It’s a great project and a really good company,” said Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. “We love to see that kind of cutting-edge technology here. We’re excited about what’s happening there.”

Owensboro Grain is not one of the companies that has applied for a share of the $1 million in economic development incentives Daviess Fiscal Court is offering, he said.