Robeson County Plans Ethanol Plant

Wilmington, NC – The County wants to build a $1.1 million methane collection system at the landfill outside of Saint Pauls, and then use the gas to power a privately-owned ethanol production plant.

The county would receive 6-percent of the plant's profits.

County Comissioners met Tuesday night to approve proposed plans for the plant. A final vote on the project is expected next month.

County Manager Ken Windley believes the facility, if approved, is still more than a year away from reality.

"This is kind of breaking new ground here," Windley said, "so we're trying to proceed very carefully to make sure everything's done properly."

The situation is a win-win for the county in Windley's eyes. "We have to deal with the methane problem eventually," he said. The plant would do that, and create a windfall of economic development in the cash-strapped rural county.

The planned $5 million facility would create 15 jobs and possibly increase demand for locally-grown corn, one of the staple ingredients of ethanol. The methane conversion process is being partially funded by a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation, which uses cigarette company settlement money to help farmers switch from tobacco cultivation to other crops.

The ethanol plant could also possible produce other goods, such as solvents or dry ice for produce packaging.

Robeson County Commissioners will hold a public meeting on February 5th to discuss the ethanol plant before approving any formal contract.