By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Since March, Patriot Bioenergy has had their eyes at a patch of land at the Southeast Kentucky Regional Business Park in Corbin. On Wednesday, they got down to some specifics on why they want an “integrated energy” facility at the site.
Citing opportunity, jobs and a positive economic impact, officials of the Pikeville-based company made their presentation in the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce meeting room.
Patriot CEO Roger Ford told those present his company wants to use the available spec building at the park to locate the power plant and ethanol sections of their planned facility. That facility would be used by Patriot to convert sugar beets, called “energy beets,” into fuel.
Patriot currently has more than 20 acres of energy beets growing in Whitley County, which are being used to test growing conditions.
He said Patriot would also use solar panels around the building to produce power. Because it would use natural gas, solar power and biomass, the plant would be referred to as an integrated energy facility.
“You’ll have new energy and traditional energy side-by-side. That’s the key. They can work together,” Ford said to the group at the presentation.
Those present included Bruce Carpenter, Executive Director of the Corbin Industrial Development Authority (CIDA) and the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney, retired business executive and Corbin resident Bob Terrell Sr., and Patriot Chief Financial Officer William Conn.
During the visual presentation, Ford and Conn pointed out opportunities were knocking at the door by using the land and resources available in the region and state.
“Eighty-nine percent of reclaimed mine sites are not being utilized for economic development. There are 19,000 natural gas wells in production in Kentucky. And the sun isn’t burning out anytime soon,” Ford noted.
The overall project would produce ethanol through modular facilities from feedstock within a 70-mile radius of the plant, which would cover all of the Tri-County and much of southeastern Kentucky.
“It’s very valuable for agriculture to grow the beets because it’s an add-on for farmers,” Ford said about beet growing in Whitley, Knox and Laurel counties.
A minimum of two million gallons of ethanol per unit would be produced, as well as co-generate electricity with solar, gasified biomass and natural gas. In addition, the by-products from the project would be monetized which Patriot officials said would increase profitability.
Those products include four million gallons per year of ethanol, over 7,000 dry tons per year of livestock supplement, potable water, food grade Carbon Dioxide, and coupled power generation from renewable electricity.
The company wants to start first with getting the plant in place at the business park, which they called Phase I.
Patriot said the economic impact would be major as a result of Phase I which involves power generation, with 25-30 full-time jobs with an average wage of $20-$25 an hour. An additional 125 jobs were forecast for Phase II, which involves fuel production, with the average wage ranging from $40-$45 an hour. Up to 500 temporary construction jobs would be created by the two phases. The company added the economic impact from Phase I would be $12 million, and $40 million for Phase II.
To build the plant in Corbin, Patriot needs a minimum of 25 acres for the plant, three-phase power and a 69-kilovolt substation, water and sewer treatment, and natural gas.
The spec building is approximately 54,000 square feet and sits on approximately 36 acres, giving room to expand. The site is off the Corbin Bypass (KY 3041) within the Corbin city limits in Knox County, and has water and sewer service, electricity supplied, broadband available, and quick access to Exit 25 of I-75.
“What is your timetable?” Carpenter asked Ford.
“We’d like some definitive progress by the fourth quarter of this year. The big piece is what will this property cost us?” Ford told him.
Carpenter told Ford the total price for the spec building and 36 acres is $2.2 million.
“That gives us a starting point. ...We’re trying to nail down getting the plant in place to get those funding incentives from government, business and energy sources. The financing is there. We’ve just got to make sure all the numbers are correct,” Ford said.
“Can it (the spec building and property) be leased?” Terrell asked Carpenter.
Carpenter told him, “It can be leased.”
After Ford told Carpenter the property needed to be surveyed locally and to check on the acreage, he mentioned Patriot would do some solar and terrain measurements and could look into having a feasibility study done.
Carpenter told Ford and Conn he would bring up the proposal and get an official from Frankfort to come to the next CIDA board meeting. That meeting will be Aug. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Chamber office on Depot Street.
“We want an agreed-to price on the property and a lease option, so when the numbers come in, we can go and move forward,” Ford said before the presentation ended.