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Kremmling company hopes to produce ethanol fuel

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Besides heating homes, Confluence Energy hopes one day to fuel cars from a Kremmling ethanol plant.

Confluence Energy started manufacturing Eco-Flame Pellets in August at Colorado’s first wood pellet plant. Now it will increase its manufacturing capacity by 50 percent by the end of the month, according to company officials.

The company also wants to use beetle-kill trees as feedstock to create cellulosic ethanol, said Mark Mathis, Confluence Energy CEO.



“We are in a unique opportunity here to make Kremmling an epicenter of the renewable energy future for this country,” Mathis said. “We want to be producing wood pellets and ethanol.

“We’re going to be removing those sugars out of the woods and firing our plant with that residue. The two plants together … will be cleaner than the existing plant by itself because of some science that’s available. That material will burn cleaner and burn better,” he said.



The plant could produce 5 million to 10 million gallons of ethanol per year at its 20,000-square-foot building. The plant, as envisioned, would be built next to the 18,000-square-foot pellet plant.

The mill uses approximately 180,000 to 225,000 tons of green material per year. The cellulosic ethanol plant would increase its feedstock requirements by about 25 percent.

Guarded optimism

Kremmling Trustee Mike Music is optimistic about the plant.

“I’m kind of excited about it,” he said. “You have to weigh the positives and you have to weigh the negatives. I see far more positives than negatives at this point. It’s kind of an interesting concept when you think about it. To think we could have a fuel source right here in town.”

Music, who has lived in Kremmling for 10 years, tempered his enthusiasm by noting that more details are still needed.

“I’m concerned about pollution,” he said. “I’ve got to understand the technology before I jump on anyone’s bandwagon.”

He will support the project as long as it does not pollute the town, he said. So far, Mathis has a good track record, he added.

More workers could potentially increase the town’s sales tax revenues to make room for more water system and capital improvements. A local refinery could also provide fuel at a lower cost, so the working class would have more disposable income, he said.

“We’re talking jobs, we’re talking another source of energy,” Music said. “Mark is a real pioneer and he’s a forward thinker.”

Investing in Kremmling

The company already has invested $10 million in Kremmling. The company plans to spend more than $50 million on renewable energy infrastructure and other projects in Kremmling within the next two years, according to company officials.

It could also hire up to 30 employees.

Colorado Blue Logs LLC and Confluence Energy plan to develop a mechanized log sorting system. The best wood will be used for lumber. The company will market its signature blue stain wood, caused by a fungus carried by the beetle, for architectural features.

Colorado Blue Logs’ 6,000-square-foot facility could be built by January and production would begin as early as April. The company plans to hire up to 30 employees.

Confluence Energy may also create a commercial pellet boiler sales and service company. The business would create four to six jobs.

“We feel that we’re creating solutions to some of the problems this country, this county and this town have,” Mathis said, “by producing wood pellets, ethanol and developing some higher value use for some of the other material.”

About 30 cellulosic ethanol plants have been proposed in the country, he added. “We’re one of them right now.”

“We feel Kremmling is an awesome area for that because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere but an hour from every where,” he said.

The plant services Routt, Eagle, Summit and Grand counties. The company and its partners also are interested in creating quality affordable housing from beetle kill trees.

“I think this could potentially put us in kind of a national spotlight for being recognized for doing something constructive about our current energy situation,” Mathis said.

The cellulosic ethanol plant is still in the conceptual stage. No permits have been applied for and nothing has been built.

Making it a reality

Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Summit County, vows to support the new use of wood-pellet power.

“(Mathis) understands the value of diversifying wood projects in Grand County,” he said. “Grand County could be an amazing leader not only in Colorado but throughout the United States.”

The plant has been in the discussion stage for some time.

“It’s time to make it a reality, and I want to be there every step of the way,” Gibbs added.

” Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or k.looby@grandcountynews.com.


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