Biofuel plant funds secured

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Money to build an algae biofuel plant is officially headed Roosevelt County’s way.

Pres. Barack Obama signed the omnibus appropriations bill Wednesday. The legislation includes $951,000 for the Sapphire Energy Algae to Fuel Demonstration Project.

The project aims to develop and grow a fuel-producing algae using technology that genetically enhances algae, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s office.

The senator said the project could create 100 new jobs.

Greg Fisher, director of the Roosevelt County Economic Development Corporation, said he thought the project was a great opportunity for Portales.

“We’re discussing plans with the company now to see how we can…have Portales participate in algae fuel production in New Mexico,” he said.

Fisher has no specific schedule for when the algae biofuel plant will be built. He said finding out how to use resources around the state and how to benefit Sapphire and New Mexico would take much more legwork.

“I wouldn’t anticipate that little money will yield us 100 jobs,” he said.

It’s too early to tell how many jobs the plant will generate, Fisher said.

Even if the plant needed 100 workers, Fisher said, he wouldn’t worry that Portales wouldn’t be able to supply them. Areas see growth when a company wants to hire more than a dozen or two dozen people, he said.

In the release, Udall said alternative energy is one pillar of eastern New Mexico’s economy.

“Economists and business leaders agree that the clean energy sector will produce the jobs of the future,” Udall also said. “By investing in this kind of project today, we can ensure that those jobs will be created in Eastern New Mexico.”

In the future, Fisher said, algae will be the way to produce biofuel because crude oil transportation and refining systems can handle the algae biofuel.

“Basically, algae creates a green crude oil that acts just like crude oil coming from the oil and gas industry,” Fisher said.