April 8, 2013 Rotogram: 36

Davis-Wade Stadium

Bob Luke, the architect for Mississippi State University’s football stadium expansion, will update us on the $75 million project.

Next Week: GSE Australia

A five-member Rotary Group Study Exchange Team from Australia makes its reciprocal visit following our district team’s October trip.

For the Record—April 1

Invocation and Pledge:    Giles Lindley

Attendance:                                   49.59%

Present — 87 (27 exempt)

Absent — 89 (17 exempt, 11 honorary)

Makeups reported       Joe Bumgardner and Frank Chiles in West Point.

Guests: Member guests were Carole Stewart and Doug Stone of John Robert Arnold, Katherine Little of Jeff Read, Micah Huffman of Brent Fountain and Scott Hunt of Don Lasell. Guests of the Club were Giulia Martinoli, Youth Exchange student; Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership; and Zac Plair, Starkville Daily News.

Welcome New Members

The Club welcomes two new members.

Katherine Little is a CPA and certified senior advisor with T E Lott & Co. Sponsored by Jeff Read, her classification is Accountancy.

Carey Edwards, vice president, commercial lending and relationship manager at Cadence Bank, is sponsored by Jerry Toney. His classification is Banking/Commercial Lending.

Board Meeting

The board of directors meets at 11:45 in the Harvey’s Board Room tomorrow (April 9).

Annual District Conference

Rotary Districts 6800, 6820 and 6840 meet together in Memphis on April 19-21. Our club will pay for seven voting delegates to attend the district conference. Let President Debra know if you can attend.

Malawi Water Well Project

Giving $6,805 in 2011-2012, our club led the district in contributions to the deep water wells project near Lilongwe, Malawi. Last year’s effort generated $64,272. The district’s contributions leveraged $24,747 in Rotary Foundation matching grant funds.

There still is time to contribute towards this year’s goal of $6,000.

Between the LionsReading Schedule

04/09 – Jeff Donald, Emerson Family Resource Center
03/28 – Melissa Dixon, First Presbyterian
– Andy Gaston, Brickfire

Next week:
04/16 – Carrie-Beth Randall
04/18 – Sarah Fratesi


Golden Triangle Pioneers Biomass Fuel Production

April 1 — When the FedEx truck pulls up to your business or house, it probably will be burning locally produced cellulosic biofuel.

In March, renewable fuels company KiOR supplied its first $87,000 diesel shipment under contract for the shipping giant’s ground transportation.

Ralph Stewart, Mid-South Engineering project construction manager, explained the development of the first-ever commercial scale facility to convert cellulosic biomass into fuel in Columbus.

The processing plant converts wood chips into crude oil. It is set up for 750 tons of pulverized dried wood per day. From there it is distilled into fuel, such as diesel, jet fuel, gasoline or kerosene.

The plant can super dry any type of cellulose material, but pine pulpwood is more plentiful and economical. One gallon of crude comes from 95 pounds of pulpwood. It takes about an eighth of an acre for a barrel of oil. The company tries to buy its supply within a 50 mile radius of the plant.

Since Stewart is not employed by KiOR, he was not at liberty to directly discuss the plant’s business. However, he gave a clear overview of the original process that turned charcoal into crude oil.

Pulpwood is chipped and run through a large hammer mill. After super drying, it almost is charcoal and is pulverized as fine as flour. Pulverizing accounts for the major cost.

The pulverized product is fed into a reactor vessel with no real byproduct in the process. A couple of gallons of water with some benzene in it is separated from 1,500 barrels of crude each day. Out of the vessel’s top come various alcohol gases and hydrogen.

The gases feed into a steam boiler that generates more electricity than the plant uses. The remaining electricity is sold to TVA. The gas also is used to dry the wood. The plant was primed with natural gas, but now is self-sufficient.

The original idea was that this plant probably wouldn’t be big enough to make a profit. Although it is a full-scale commercial unit, it will serve for further research and development.

Stewart’s company has signed another multi-million dollar contract to work on the first part of a new plant under construction in Natchez. Initial experience with the Columbus plant will ensure that the next plant is profitable. He noted that half way through the local assembly, the company developed a new reactor design that makes 30 percent more fuel.

Citing a six-page article in Fortune magazine entitled “Mississippi’s Great Green Hope”, Stewart explained that the state has lost ten of 21 paper mills and 6,000 jobs. Both Columbus and Natchez were hit by the closures.

Mississippi granted $100 million for infrastructure to support the plant. KiOR originally guaranteed a contract with a diesel distributor to ensure that a viable product would result from the investment in contrast to the Mississippi Meat Processors plant multi-million dollar debacle.

Stewart explained that venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who started Sun Microsystems in 1982, owns 51 percent of KiOR.

“It’s an honor to work for him. It’s the most ethical outfit I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “Everything was a new technology, so we had a lot of problems and discussions, but no screaming, cussing fits. We discussed, solved the problems and went on from there.”

“Khosla’s rich, but interested in doing something good for the world. He invests in a lot of green technology,” said Stewart. “His business philosophy is to start with really smart people around him, pay them well, and split the profits with them.”

Most of the plant components were turnkey products. Stewart’s biggest challenge was coordinating suppliers.

“Even though the economy was terrible, equipment suppliers in Wisconsin had trouble meeting deadlines because workers had followed the North Dakota oil boom,” he said. “In another instance, we had contracts for nine conveyors to be delivered in six months, but finally got them after two years.”

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