Fiberight's waste-to-energy plan moving ahead

Marion sorting facility to break ground in the Spring, updated Blairstown ethanol plant making preparations

Rick Smith
Published: December 12 2013 | 4:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:47 am in
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MARION — Fiberight LLC now anticipates it will begin construction of a $20-million garbage sorting, shredding and recycling facility here in the spring with the intent to turn municipal solid waste into energy.

Fiberight plans to convert some of the sorted and shredded garbage into compressed gas for use in vehicles while some of the organic material will be converted into ethanol at a former corn ethanol plant at Blairstown in Benton County that is now owned by Fiberight.

Craig Stuart-Paul, Fiberight CEO, said this week in Cedar Rapids that the project is moving ahead even though construction isn’t starting at the Marion facility this month as he had thought might happen three months ago.

He said the Maryland-based Fiberight is looking to break ground this spring.

"We are basically now to the point where we are shovel-ready and ready to go," Stuart-Paul said. "We were hoping to roll bulldozers in December, and we are ready to roll bulldozers other than the small fact that the ground is frozen.

"Absolutely this spring," he said the work would begin.

He said the company would order steel for the Marion facility next week and that it is "about to sign the order" for the plant’s equipment. At the same time, he said Fiberight workers are working at the company’s Blairstown ethanol plant to convert equipment designed to make ethanol from corn to equipment that can make ethanol from cellulosic fiber derived from organic wastes found in garbage.

Lon Pluckhahn, Marion city manager, said Thursday that he met with Stuart-Paul in Marion this week to establish a construction schedule to allow for a spring groundbreaking.

The plant will be located near the city’s Public Service Department in an area zoned for heavy industrial uses, Pluckhahn said.

Stuart-Paul said the site has an address, 4390 Third Ave., Marion.

At the same time, Fiberight has plans to expand its waste-to-energy effort to the city of Iowa City, where the company has submitted a proposal similar to its Marion proposal.

On Dec. 17, city officials in Iowa City will ask the City Council to let them negotiate a trash-to-ethanol agreement with Fiberight.

Stuart-Paul said that Fiberight has received a $25 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $2.9 million grant from the Iowa Power Fund to help construct the Marion facility and convert the Blairstown ethanol plant. Another $15 million will come from private equity, Stuart-Paul said this week.

Stuart-Paul said the facility in Marion and a smaller one at the Iowa City Landfill both will feed organic material to the Blairstown plant. Trucks returning from Blairstown will pick up some materials in the Iowa City process for further sorting and recycling at the Marion facility, he said.

The proposed Marion facility, if built and successful, will shake up the solid-waste business in Linn County because much of the garbage that now goes to the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency landfill at County Home Road and Highway 13 just north of Marion will end up being processed at Fiberight’s facility in Marion instead.

For some years, the city of Marion’s interest has been to reduce the amount of garbage going into the landfill on its border.

Marion’s Pluckhahn said the city of Marion has no risk at this point in the Fiberight project, which is supposed to be up and running by the end of 2014 per an agreement between the city and company.

Fiberight, the city manager said, will ask the city of Marion in January for some property-tax relief, but Pluckhahn noted that incentive wouldn’t apply if the plant isn’t operational.

A second firm that has wanted to build a waste-to-energy plant in Marion, Plasma Power of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., continues to look for financing, he said.

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