Louisiana is one step closer to being the first state in the U.S. to boast a sugar-to-ethanol plant. The Louisiana Public Facilities Authority Board of Trustees has approved bonds worth up to $70 million to help build the plant in Lacassine. The plant is a project of Louisiana Green Fuels (LGF) and is 80 percent owned by Andino Energy and 20 percent owned by Lake Charles-area sugarcane farmers. The refinery will be built by a manufacturer based in India where the plant would be pre-built and shipped to Lake Charles in late summer and be in place before the next year’s cane harvest begins this October.
“Because of increasing oil prices and concerns over the environment, interest in the alternative fuel industry is growing,” said Thomas A. Antoon, chairman of the LPFA Board, in a press statement. “This new sugar-to-ethanol plant will move our state into the forefront of the growing alternative fuel production industry and should have a favorable economic impact on southwestern Louisiana.”
The sugar-to-ethanol plant will be sited near the Lake Charles Cane-Lacassine Syrup Mill that has been in operation since 2006. The ethanol plant will use syrup produced at this plant along with can molasses sourced from other sugar mills in the state to produce the fuel. LGF anticipates the ethanol will be sold to the city of Houston as well as the state, that both have ethanol mandates in place.
The bond approval is considered a preliminary approval for additional bonds and LGF says these bonds lend credibility to the company’s effort to court private investors. To date, Andino Energy along with a cooperative of Lake Charles farmers have spent nearly $40 million to buy land and secure contracts for sugarcane and sweet sorghum farmers. According to Alex Santacoloma, co-owner of Andino Energy, this is the reason the bonds are needed to help build the ethanol plant.