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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Plant to turn sugarcane waste to sugars, fuel

Plant to turn sugarcane waste to sugars, fuel

MATHEWS — Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Managing Director Otavio Pontes of Virdia Inc. announced the company will make a $60 million capital investment to build biochemical processing facilities that will convert sugar cane bagasse into high-value industrial sugars and biofuels.

The processing plants will be installed beside the Raceland Raw Sugar Corp. mill in Raceland, where Virdia has secured an agreement to use 80,000 tons per year of the mill’s bagasse, or sugar cane waste.

The project will create 81 new direct jobs, averaging $55,000 a year, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development also estimates the project will result in 469 new indirect jobs, for a total of 550 new jobs in the Bayou Region and surrounding areas.

In addition, an estimated 120 construction jobs will be generated by the project, which represents the first major co-location of an industrial processing facility with a Louisiana sugar mill.

“Virdia is creating quality new jobs by developing new methods for making sugar cane products that will continue to help support our farmers. This project will be a boon for our farmers and refiners in the sugar industry, and it also will create great jobs for our families in Louisiana – where today we have more people working than ever before,” said Gov. Jindal.

Virdia Inc., a U.S.-based company, is fully owned and was recently acquired by Stora Enso Oyj, a $14 billion-per-year forestry products company headquartered in Finland, with operations worldwide. The company will begin hiring in 2015, with expected completion of the $60 million project in Raceland by the end of 2016.

“We chose Louisiana due to the accessibility of a nonfood-competing, sustainable raw material – sugar cane bagasse – which will enable us to validate the technology and develop further the applications and possibilities offered by this technology,” Pontes said.

LED began discussing a potential project in Louisiana with the company in August 2012. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered Virdia a competitive incentive package that includes a performance-based, $1 million Economic Development Award Program grant to offset infrastructure costs.

Virdia will receive the comprehensive solutions of LED FastStart®, recently ranked by Business Facilities magazine as the No. 1 state workforce development program for the fifth consecutive year. The company also is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

“We are pleased to welcome Virdia Inc. to Lafourche Parish,” Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph said. “How exciting that this company with global investment has chosen Lafourche Parish as the site to manufacture their products. The familiar sight of the ‘Raceland Mountains’ will disappear because these innovative people have determined that sugar cane waste can be transformed into useful products in the biochemical industry.”

“Years from now, we will look back upon our renewable fuels movement, just as we did in the last century with the industrial revolution,” said President and CEO Vic Lafont of the South Louisiana Economic Council. “With all our natural resources, the Bayou Region is well-positioned to be at the center of this revolution."

Gov. Bobby Jindal was at the Mathews Government Complex Tuesday announcing a new biochemical processing facility to be built in Raceland that will create several new jobs for the area.

Staff Photo by Babs