June 30, 2023 Updated Fri., June 30, 2023 at 9:37 p.m.
AgTech OS has announced it will be taking another shot at building a biodiesel facility, placing the plant outside city limits on the roadside of Washington State Route 270.
Ernest Spicer, AgTech OS CEO, held a news conference Thursday afternoon touching on the company’s proposed biodiesel plant plans, as well as addressing community concerns.
The agriculture technology company plans to buy around 200 acres from Sand Road Land Company, a local business entity, on the corner of Washington State Route 270 and Pullman Airport Road. The location is behind Floyd’s Cannabis Co., between the cities of Moscow and Pullman. Spicer said the company has not bought the land yet, but plans to purchase it in the near future.
The proposed 550,000-square-foot facility will cost around $200 million to build, Spicer said. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2024 and last until 2025. AgTech OS will begin testing the facility in 2026. The company hopes the plant will be fully operational in 2027 or 2028, and plans on staffing it with 45 to 60 workers.
Spicer said AgTech OS has been trying to create the biodiesel facility on the Palouse for around nine to 10 months now. The project began working in partnership with the Port of Whitman County, but plans fizzled following objections from Pullman residents. AgTech OS plans to build and operate the biodiesel facility independently.
In late January, the port tried to develop an Agricultural Advancement Campus of which a proposed biodiesel plant would have been its anchor tenant. The facility would have been on over 184 acres of land on the outskirts of Pullman, with 88 acres within city limits. It would have been near residential areas and the Pullman School District on Old Wawawai Road.
The port submitted its application to the city of Pullman on March 2 to rezone land designated residential to industrial. The proposal drew a critical response from some Pullman residents, who raised concerns about losing residential space, negative effects on home values and environmental worries. Several protests were staged and more than 7,000 people signed a petition in opposition to the development.
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories President and founder Ed Schweitzer also sent a letter in early March stating the company disapproved of the plan.
AgTech OS announced March 21 it dissolved its partnership with the port and sought an alternative location for its biofuel facility. The port withdrew its rezoning application and offer to purchase land partly within Pullman city limits April 20, killing plans for the campus.
Spicer said after some “stumbling blocks” a few months ago, AgTech OS re-evaluated how it was going to address the community and negative sentiments associated with the past venture.
A large worry from residents was the location, rezoning residential land to industrial. Spicer said the community pointed AgTech OS to property on Pullman Airport Road, and it listened to the suggestions. No residential area is within a mile from the new proposed location, Spicer said, and the company has contacted all residents who would be near the property.
Another concern was light pollution. Spicer said the plant will be looking into motion control options as well as possibly turning off lights during the night.
Spicer said the plant will be run with renewable energy, getting most of its power from solar panels. He added the company has been working with Avista to feed excess power produced in the summer months back into the electrical grid.
Many residents were concerned about odors that could be associated with a biodiesel plant. Spicer said the plant will be processing virgin canola, which doesn’t have a smell associated with the process turning the plant into fuel. He added odors typically come from recycling waste and grease, which the facility will not be doing as it will be processing only 100% virgin oil.
AgTech OS also looked to see how the plant will affect wetlands and the aquifer. He said the location is away from wetlands and their water system will not be putting harmful chemicals into the water or harm the aquifer in any way.
Spicer said around 10,000 gallons of water is estimated to be used daily, and about 1 million gallons of water will be onsite. Rather than using city water, Spicer said the facility will be pulling water supply from the aquifer and around 95% of water will be recycled.
AgTech OS will also be purchasing private commercial water rights of around 20,000 gallons a day. Spicer added this is almost double what the plant will be using and it will serve as a “cushion.”
Spicer said there will be an opportunity for local canola farmers to partner with AgTech OS. He said the company will work with local farmers first before sourcing canola from outside vendors. Direct partners will have the option to use the plant’s biodiesel fuel, and AgTech OS will offer supplemental price increases for farmers to store canola later being processed at the facility.
The plant’s maximum production capacity is 11 million gallons of biodiesel fuel per year. Spicer said this is equivalent to 10 truckloads per day, which would be traveling from Washington State Route 270 through downtown Pullman to expedite its products. He added trucks are already transporting the Palouse’s canola and the influx of trucks are already being seen in the area.
As well as biodiesel, the facility will produce and transport seed meal and 1,3-Propanediol.
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