Tyton BioEnergy Systems is restarting the former Clean Burn Fuels biorefinery in Hoke County, North Carolina, as part of its strategy to convert its proprietary tobacco, to be grown regionally, into ethanol. The new operation will generate 79 jobs and invest $36 million over the next three years in Hoke, Wake and other surrounding counties.
The firm’s partner, Tyton NC Biofuels LLC, purchased the facility and is planning to add the biofuels manufacturing jobs and restart North Carolina’s only commercial-scale ethanol refinery, which has been idle for more than three years in the city of Raeford.
According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Tyton BioEnergy Systems developed a special energy tobacco plant that is a dedicated non-food fuel crop. Over the next five years, Tyton will work to grow its energy tobacco and establish local rural processing facilities to convert tobacco into three products: sugar for ethanol, oil for biodiesel and a “green” byproduct called biochar, which is used as a soil amendment in the forestry and agriculture sectors.
Tyton energy tobacco will not compete with traditional tobacco, but rather offer farmers the opportunity to profitably grow a new energy crop in rotation with other row crops or on lands not ideal for other crops. At first, Tyton will use corn as the feedstock in this local refinery and then transition to tobacco-sugars as farmers cultivate more acres of energy tobacco.
“Tyton is committed to delivering value to North Carolina farmers and building the green-fuel basket of the mid-Atlantic through our agriculture and biofuels manufacturing operations” said Peter Majeranowski, President, Tyton BioEnergy Systems. “There is a long and important history with tobacco in NC, and we are excited to work with farmers and workers, especially veterans, across the state to create a new green-energy future for tobacco that will bring benefits to the region and world.”
Governor Pat McCrory said, "Tyton will generate jobs in green manufacturing and provide new opportunities for farmers while investing millions of dollars in North Carolina’s economy.”
“Farmers can get into the energy business and help North Carolina and our nation become energy independent,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “With North Carolina’s history and expertise in tobacco, this is an excellent opportunity to ensure tobacco farming’s viability.”
The project was made possible in part by a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina Fund of up to $232,000. The One NC Fund provides financial assistance, through local governments, to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state. Companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and investment performance standards to qualify for grant funds. These grants also require and are contingent upon local matches.
North Carolina’s Southeast Regional Economic Development Partnership, a public-private partnership that markets the Southeast region nationally and globally, was an important resource to Tyton in its evaluation and selection of Hoke County and North Carolina, state officials said.
Other partners that helped with this project include: the N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, N.C. State University, N.C. Community Colleges, Sandhills Community College, NCWorks, Hoke County, Raeford-Hoke Economic Development Commission, Wake County Economic Development, N.C. Biotechnology Center and NC’s Southeast Regional Economic Development Partnership.