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Ethanol plant permitting on longer timeline

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Construction of a proposed corn-to-ethanol manufacturing plant here is being delayed...

By MELODY JAMESON

GIBSONTON – Construction of a proposed corn-to-ethanol manufacturing plant here is being delayed, with a 90-day extension recently granted by regulators for completion of the initial permit application.

Air quality and chemical engineers at Hillsborough’s Environmental Protection Commission in February asked promoters of The Sunshine Way Ethanol plant proposed for acreage east of U.S. 41 and south of Kracker Avenue for additional information about specific design components in the prospective operation. In a six-page letter to the Construction Tradition Group (CTG), Eaton Park, Florida, the regulators outlined a number of questions related to the design of dry material handling equipment and to equipment designed to manage odor emissions.

In early May, CTG responded with what EPC engineers took to be partial answers to the questions. CTG also requested an extension of time to further develop the pertinent designs.

Another 90 days was tacked onto the application process timeline in a June 3 letter to CTG, according to Jason Waters, an EPC chemical engineer familiar with the file. That extension gives the plant promoters until early September to respond to the EPC queries, Waters added.

However, he indicated, these timeframes are not without flexibility. Asked if one extension after another could be simply requested and granted, he said that early in the process, an initial request for more time is not extraordinary and often readily granted. Another extension request would have to be based on a good reason and without it the agency can and does deny applications and close files. In this case, the process must be initiated from the beginning, again.

The Sunshine Way plant was proposed for the 100-acre site adjacent to existing CSX railroad tracks and projected to produce eventually 200 million gallons of 200 proof ethanol per year from “Dent” corn, a variety not grown for human consumption. The $325 million facility would receive two South Florida harvests of corn annually, arriving by rail, CTG told EPC, store it in 12 silos and ferment it in six tanks.

The resulting absolute ethanol would be stored in five internal floating roof tanks until shipped out by railcar, tanker trucks or pipeline.

In years past, two other ethanol plants have been proposed in the West Central Florida area but have not been built to date.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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