ST. MARTINVILLE, LA — A $100 million bio-fuel refinery could be coming to Acadiana and it could mean more money for local sugar cane farmers.
About 90 percent of the byproduct from the raw sugar making process, called bagasse, is used to power the plant by creating steam. The remaining 10 percent, if it can't be sold, it has to be stored, which could be pretty expensive. Thanks to new technology, those leftovers could be used to make bio-fuels.
Houston-based Praj industries has been working to create what it calls 2G Ethanol Technology. It takes what's left after the sugar refining process and makes a form of ethanol. This would be the first refinery of its kind in the United States and a milestone in the history of sugar cane harvesting.
Gillian Eggleston, who heads the Audubon Sugar Institute, says technology over the years has reduced a significant amount of waste but has also reduced the number of farmers required to harvest the cane. Storing the excess bagasse can cost over $500 million per season to store if it is not sold to other industries. The proposed refinery will have the capacity to product 10-15 million gallons of ethanol per year, turning waste into additional revenue for Acadiana cane farmers.
Plans for the location and construction of the ethanol refinery have not been finalized.