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Grant gives boost to biorefinery project in Lyons Falls

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LYONS FALLS — The recent award of a $256,960 economic development grant to Applied Biorefinery Sciences LLC will see a once vacant building converted into a small-scale test site for a future biorefinery in Lewis County.

The facility will be on the site of the former Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper Mill.

“We have one building that’s usable for their purposes,” Lewis County Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler said.

The building itself is expected to need only minimal renovations to make it operational.

Early steps for this project, which eventually could bring a full-scale commercial biorefinery to the area, have been conducted in a laboratory and, so far, have been successful.

“We know it works,” said Joel R. Howard, CEO of Applied Biorefinery Sciences.

The next step, in the commercial setting, will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide data, such as how often cleaning and scheduled maintenance should be done, for engineering purposes.

“The process we use cooks the wood chips in water only,” which extracts water-soluble chemicals from the chips, Mr. Howard said.

“It’s a clean process. The wood chips retain their original shape.”

They then can be used in products such as fiberboard, pellets and paper.

A patent to cover the process is expected to be issued Dec. 31.

The grant from the North Country Regional Economic Development Council will help in securing additional funding needed to complete the project, which has a price tag of approximately $5 million.

“This is just a starting point,” Mr. Howard said.

“If we had all of the funding right now, we could be operational by early 2015,” he said of the test site.

Some of the more time-consuming steps include obtaining equipment, which takes approximately six to eight months to fabricate.

The project will be fully contained inside the building at the former mill.

Plans to put the collected data to use at a fully operational level will take place in the vicinity of Lyons Falls, but not at the former mill site. Full commercial biorefineries can process 700 dry tons of wood per day.

“It will be in an industrial park,” Mr. Howard said, but somewhere close given that Lyons Falls “has a sustainable wood supply within reach.”

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