Old Mill to House Biorefinery in Maine

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Biofine Developments Northeast Inc. of Maine, the town of Lincoln, Maine, and the Lincoln Lakes Innovation Corp. announced that a tentative agreement has been reached for BDNE to locate its multi-phase biofuels refinery on the former mill site in the town.

“We are very pleased and genuinely excited about launching our industrial scale refinery project in Lincoln,” BDNE founder and CEO Steve Fitzpatrick said. “We have received the most constructive and productive response from the Town of Lincoln. We believe our project will be an engine for economic growth in the community, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

BDNE plans to build at least two phases of its biorefinery development at Lincoln’s mill, according to a statement issued July 29.  BDNE’s technology utilizes waste wood products and other cellulosic waste to produce ethyl levulinate, a green drop-in substitute for home heating fuel. Co-products of the process include all-natural specialty chemicals used in food and fragrance production, as well as biochar for industrial use. 

The new commercial biorefinery will be at the former mill site located at 20 Depot Street.

Because EL is made from forest waste products, it produces net-negative greenhouse gas emissions and may help inject new life into the state’s forest economy while supporting its burgeoning renewable energy industry as well. 

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“The multi-phase biorefinery in Lincoln will help establish Maine as a hub of innovation and a leader in the emerging industrial bioeconomy,” said Mike Cassata, chief developments officer, BDNE.

BDNE estimates that its Lincoln biorefinery will create about 200 full-time jobs, with the potential for approximately 2,000 over time. Meanwhile, the EL produced in Lincoln by BDNE will reduce Maine’s GHG emissions by 40,000 metric tons (mt) per year, which equals the amount of carbon captured by 49,000 acres of forest. Long-term, BDNE sees the potential for 4 million mt of annual reductions, which amounts to 40 percent of the state’s climate-action benchmark for 2030.

The heating oil industry has embraced EL as an affordable decarbonization solution. The fuel has been successfully tested over the past decade by the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) and endorsed by NEFI, which aims to reduce the industry’s GHG emissions 40 percent by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.

“Renewable liquid heating fuels deliver the quickest, most cost-effective and reliable path to net-zero for the Northeast U.S., and EL will be key to getting us there without threatening America’s energy security or grid resiliency,” said NEFI President and CEO Sean Cota.

“Ethyl levulinate could be a game changer for the industry, delivering the comfort of heating oil, and essentially eliminating greenhouse gas emissions,” said NORA President John Huber.

BDNE continues to seek out commercialization opportunities for EL. In October 2020, Sprague Resources LP, one of the largest heating oil wholesalers in the Northeast, announced a purchase agreement with BDNE for the production and marketing of EL. Sprague will buy EL produced in Lincoln, and with an extensive terminal network, is positioned to supply the renewable fuel to heating oil dealers all across the region.

BDNE’s technology has been supported by many Maine agencies and enterprises, including a grant from Maine Technology Institute and technical development support from the University of Maine Forest Bioproducts Research Institute for commercialization of BDNE’s patented process.

“The Town of Lincoln envisions many new tenants at the Lincoln mill, all of whom will promote the town’s greater prosperity. BDNE is an ideal anchor for this site repurposing, and a great catalyst for a range of upgrades and improvements at the mill,” according to Town Manager Rick Bronson.

“Our conversations with Biofine have been very exciting,” says Lincoln Lakes Innovation Corp. Chair Jay Hardy. “In Lincoln we see this development as a big part of reinvigorating the local economy, and making productive use of all of Maine’s great resources.”

The Maine Department of Economic & Community Development says it expects Biofine’s biofuels project to help diversify Maine’s forest industry and provide additional markets for low-grade wood residuals. “This project  relies on the sustainable use of Maine’s natural resources but also leverages existing industrial assets in the Town of Lincoln. Projects like this will continue to revitalize rural Maine and ensure the continued sustainable growth of Maine’s forest industry,” says Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“From coal to low sulfur heating oil and now the promise of ‘EL,’ Maine’s liquid fuel retailers continue to embrace advances in technology to ensure that Mainers have access to proven, reliable, and affordable home and business heating solutions. The Maine Energy Marketers Association will continue to work with Biofine and policy makers to make certain that the production of this local, renewable, carbon-neutral heating fuel is available throughout our state as soon as possible,” says Charlie Summers, president and CEO, Maine Energy Marketers Association. 

BDNE has retained Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital of Yarmouth, Maine, for development services and financing. TFIC is currently readying project financing packages for lenders and investors.

The agreement among BDNE, LLIC and town of Lincoln remains subject to final execution of definitive documentation and contract approval by the parties.

Biofine Developments Northeast is a privately owned developer of biorefinery projects utilizing technology and processes developed by Biofine Technologies Inc, based in Brookline, Massachusetts.

BDNE is focused on establishing a biorefinery industry in Maine in order to leverage the ongoing collaborative research and development at the University of Maine, and Maine’s combination of industrial infrastructure and abundant wood-based biomass resource.

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