OLD TOWN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A Massachusetts-based company has launched a pilot project to make biofuels out of wood waste at the now-shuttered Old Town Paper Mill. Biofine is working with UMaine Researchers at UMaine's Forest Bioproducts Research Institute and hopes to eventually launch a full-scale commercial operation that could help revive Maine's Forest Products Industry.
Keith Bowden is one of those workers who lost his job in 2014 when the Old Town Paper Mill Closed. Now he says he's putting his expertise as a chemical engineer to good use again as a control room operator at the biorefinery pilot plant. It's a temporary job, but one that could be permanent if a commercial scale plant is built.
"It's a rebirth for me to help this project for a month and a half," he said.
Hemant Pendse is the director of UMaine's Forest BioProducts Research Institute which patented the technology used in the pilot plant to make jet fuel.
"They will create new markets and new jobs," Pendse said of UMaine's partner in this project, Biofine
The Plant right now can produce one ton of woody biomass per day. They can turn wood waste or even old cardboard into biochemicals through a process that breaks down the waste using acids. Those chemicals can be used to make things such as plastics, and biofuels.
Stephen Fitzpatrick is a managing member of Biofine, based in Framingham, Massachusetts which is partnering with UMaine. He says his company is eyeing this location for a commercial scale plant, that could produce about 100 tons of biomass per day for chemical production. Fitzpatrick says there's potential here due to the availability of wood waste, and an available steam power supply.
"We're studying it very carefully, the possibility of a commercial scale plant on this facility," he said.
A commercial plant, Pendse said would perhaps employ 30-40 workers, not nearly what the paper mills employed, but the hope is, this is the start of an emerging technology that will grow over time.
" I think for the new generation, these are high tech jobs that will pay very well," said Pense.
If everything goes according to plan, Biofine says it would be a matter of months, not years, before moving forward with a full-scale commercial bioproducts plant.
UMaine Officials say the new owners of the former Old Town Mill hope to bring more tenants to the property and create a multi-tenant industrial park.