TAMPA — Exit ethanol, enter biodiesel.
Port Sutton EnviroFuels has shelved plans to build Florida's first ethanol plant, blaming a "frivolous" lawsuit that delayed the project and cost the company its financing. A Texas company has stepped in to take over Port Sutton's 22-acre lease and build a biodiesel plant instead.
GreenHunter Energy, based near Dallas, plans to invest up to $100-million in a biodiesel plant and terminal that will produce 50-million gallons a year. The plant will make the fuel from vegetable oils and animal fats. The company also plans to harvest oil from jatropha trees grown in Central and South America. The project is slated for completion by the end of 2010 and will employ 40 to 50 people, said Kirk Trosclair, who directs remote terminal operations for GreenHunter Energy.
A GreenHunter Energy subsidiary operates the largest biodiesel plant in the country, with the capacity to produce 105-million gallons a year, Trosclair said. The company is also involved in biofuels, biomass and wind energy, he said.
The 22-acre site near U.S. 41 had been slated for a 44-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant announced by Port Sutton EnviroFuels in 2006. City residents and environmental activists complained about the air pollution the ethanol plant would produce, and about its demand for nearly 400,000 gallons of water a day. The project also became entangled in a lawsuit from a Port of Tampa neighbor.
In March, Port Sutton EnviroFuels said it had scaled back the project to just a storage and blending facility. The project then had trouble securing new financing, said Bradley Krohn, president of U.S. EnviroFuels, one of the investors. The company decided to pull out of the Tampa project, but is pleased that the Tampa site will still be used to make biofuels, Krohn said.
Joyce Schauer, a community activist who lives on Harbour Island and opposed the original plans for an ethanol plant, said she's glad the ethanol plant failed, but wants to know more about how GreenHunter's plans will impact air and water. GreenHunter plans to host neighborhood meetings next week for residents of Davis Islands and Harbour Island.
Asjylyn Loder can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 225-3117.