Great Falls

Mar 27, 2012 8:21 PM by Tara Grimes (tara@krtv.com)

Montana Advanced Biofuels gets green light for Great Falls facility

A final permit has been approved for a new ethanol plant on the east end of Great Falls.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality granted the air quality permit last week.

The business is Montana Advanced Biofuels, an ethanol, animal feed, and wheat gluten based plant.

The Great Falls Development authority says it started work on the waterline on Monday.

The project is expected to create up to 700 construction jobs.

Once the plant is complete, it's expected employ about 100 people.

GFDA president Brett Doney says it will attract attention from all over the world, stating, "The team the company has put together is world class. This will be one of the most technologically advanced biofuel plants in the world."

Doney says the company is waiting to finalize a loan; once that comes through, construction is expected to take about 18 months.

(February 2, 2012) Plans for a wheat and barley based ethanol plant near Malmstrom Air Force Base first began 20 years ago.

Although Montana Advanced Biofuels nearly started construction in 2006, the project was stalled by financing issues.

Company President Gary Hebener said, "We stayed with it. We believe in the project."

Now the company is looking at a new way to finance- federal loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The loan program isn't a sure thing.

The company will have to prove it meets federal requirements.

Brett Doney, with the Great Falls Development Authority, said, "One of the things they had to prove to the Department of Energy is that the carbon footprint would be less than 50% of the petroleum carbon footprint, and they came in around 36%."

Developers are also asking the city to look into creating a Tax Increment Financing District to use a portion of the plant's taxes toward infrastructure costs and utilities.

Doney said, "We just started the process. The next step is to put together a plan and then start working with city staff on an actual proposal."

Hebener said, "It's, I think, important to note that a Tax Increment Bond District was created for this project a number of years ago. So, all of this work has been done before."

If successful, the plant will produce 100 permanent jobs, 600 construction jobs and will be the largest wheat and barley consumer in the state, providing agricultural producers another market for their crops.

Hebener said, "We won't give up."

Ultimately financing for the project will be up to the federal government.

That decision is expected in the next couple months.

If the company is granted the federal loan guarantee, construction for the $400-million project could begin as early as June.