EDWARDSVILLE – Expanding on his commitment to Illinois’ emerging biofuel industry, Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced nearly $1 million in Opportunity Returns funding for upgrades at the National Corn-To-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus. These funds will ensure that NCERC can continue to adapt its facilities to the technical needs of the bio-refinery industry. The state’s investment will help leverage an additional $2 million from the federal government and reinforces Illinois’ commitment to the developing biofuel industry. Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin made the announcement with state and local officials today in Edwardsville.
“Biofuels are the future of energy in this nation and around the world, and the National Corn-To-Ethanol Research Center is at the forefront of this developing industry. We must continue to invest in this research center to keep Illinois on the cutting edge of the biofuel industry, and to support Illinois’ number-one industry: agriculture,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “The research and testing that this facility delivers will provide value-added jobs and support agri-business throughout our state. We can feel good about supporting this research center because we know that today's ethanol plant is tomorrow's biorefinery.”
The $995,000 Opportunity Returns investment is through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) Coal and Energy Development Fund. This grant comes following Gov. Blagojevich’s significant $550,000 Opportunity Returns investment in 2004. With this additional grant, NCERC will complete critical modifications and upgrades to its pilot plant facility including: safety features; expansions to data sensors, monitoring and plant control systems; wastewater handling and treatment; boiler system modifications; and upgrades to corn pretreatment and fiber handling systems.
“We are pleased with Gov. Blagojevich's continued commitment to promote and expand renewable energy in Illinois," said Dr. Vaughn Vandegrift, SIUE Chancellor. "This grant will ensure that we have state-of-the-art biofuel research facilities to train students and advance this industry that is critical to improving the economics of fuel ethanol production. The long-term viability and continued successful growth of the biofuel industry benefits corn growers and rural America, our environment, our economy, and our energy security."
This investment is critical to the continued growth of the fuel ethanol industry as a whole and, more specifically, within Illinois. The NCERC can now develop technologies to convert the cellulose portion of the corn fiber in the kernel to ethanol - one of the industry’s highest priorities. This technology could increase the production of ethanol from a bushel of corn by up to18 percent and, when developed, could be incorporated into both existing ethanol plants and plants under development. The work at the NCERC will also provide the technology needed to convert other bio-products into ethanol.
“This Opportunity Returns grant is another boost for the biofuel industry in Illinois. Gov. Blagojevich has invested heavily in developing this industry and this important research center, and his investments set our region apart as pioneers in this field,” State Senator William Haine (D-Alton) said.
"Gov. Blagojevich and the State of Illinois are providing the needed assistance to ensure we can move forward and realize the full potential of ethanol. Ethanol is the fuel of the future and Southwest Illinois has the resources available to be at the forefront of this emerging market," said State Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville).
The NCERC began operation in the fall of 2004 thanks to $6 million from the State of Illinois, which leveraged $15 million in federal grants. The mission of the Center is validating new technologies, conducting research needed collectively by the industry, providing laboratory services and assistance, and providing hands on training for students interested in a career in the industry. The Center has completed three trials on behalf of notable private industry clients, including ICM and Genencor International, and currently has three publicly funded grant projects that total more than $1.2 million.
“Since opening last fall, the Center has already conducted a handful of studies and is providing important information to improve the biofuels industry,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said. “Through Opportunity Returns, we can invest in this developing industry and know that Illinois is providing the spark of innovation needed to take biofuel production and use to the next level.”
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.