ZeaChem adds to Boardman plant, hosts Gov. Kitzhaber

ZeaChem played host to Gov. John Kitzhaber Monday and announced the final phase of construction of its Boardman demonstration plant.

ZeaChem played host to Gov. John Kitzhaber Monday and announced the final phase of construction of its Boardman demonstration plant.

ZeaChem CEO Jim Imbler was in Boardman Monday to play host to Gov. John Kitzhaber and talk about the jobs his company's plant will provide for eastern Oregon.

The company also formally announced construction of the final phase of its Boardman demonstration ethanol production plant, adding capabilities funded by a $25 million U.S. Department of Energy grant.

The final phase of the plant's construction — which will add the capability to turn biomass into sugar on the front-end and produce cellulosic ethanol on the back-end — is expected to be completed this summer.

The demonstration plant started operation on its key processing technology in January. That same month, the company landed a $232 million loan guarantee that will help fund the construction of a commercial-scale plant, which is also planned for Boardman. While the demonstration plant has a capacity of 250,000 gallons per year and will employ 25 people when it's fully operational, the commercial plant would have the capacity of 25 million gallons per year and would employ a full-time staff of 65 people.

"This is a good-paying industry," Imbler said.

Imbler said he's been more than pleased with the state of Oregon and with Boardman's reception of the company, which is based in Lakewood, Colo.

"My only complaint is the wind," Imbler said.

ZeaChem has not announced any other plants, but Imbler said the company is looking at additional sites in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The plants, like the one in Boardman, would use local biomass sources for production into cellulosic ethanol. The plants can also provide green chemicals for use in product manufacturing.

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