Fuel refinery project to break ground in 2023, looks to invest $1.5 billion in Natchez

Published 8:54 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

NATCHEZ — Velocys could break ground on a $1.5 billion bio-refinery plant at the Belwood Industrial Park as early as 2023, officials have said.

The Bayou Fuels project in Natchez would specialize in the production of environmentally friendly fuel, especially jet fuel, made from woody biomass that would otherwise be waste from paper and lumber industries. The plant would be one of only two such facilities built in America with a similar one being built in Oregon.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson called it a “historic” project in a social media post after meeting with Gov. Tate Reeves about the project in August.

“The company has been perfecting this ‘technology of the future’ for twenty years, and is finally getting ready to launch,” he states. “After a final phase of engineering, ground-breaking could occur as early as 2023. This will be historic – and it will mean hundreds of jobs for Natchez — Adams County.”

Natchez Inc Executive Director Chandler Russ told the Adams County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday the August meeting with Gov. Tate Reeves, Gibson and representatives of Velocys “went very well.” Its main purpose was to “collect multiple years of tax-free bond” money for the new bio-refinery plant, he said.

“There is a huge push for green fuels, especially in the jet fuel market,” Russ said while updating Supervisors on the project Tuesday.

While Velocys has not yet begun construction, Russ told Supervisors “they are spending dollars” preparing for it.

Velocys’ vice president of new projects and founding member Jeff McDaniel said Velocys has invested more than $20 million to date in the development phase of the Bayou Fuels project. This entails years of product demonstrations, which resulted in Japan Airlines completing a successful flight from Tokyo to Sapporo powered by fuel made from wood in June.

“To our knowledge, it was the first time a commercial airline has ever flown with fuel-based in wood,” McDaniel said. “… We took woodchip from Mississippi up to the demonstration site … in North Carolina and a couple of years later we completed that second demonstration with some other technology partners in Japan.”

McDaniel said the final detailed engineering work would begin in early 2022 and construction would begin in the first half of 2023. Construction would take approximately two-and-one-half years to complete, he said.

McDaniel said the Natchez plant would convert 3,000 tons of woody biomass per day to produce 30 million gallons of renewable transportation fuel each year, including 20 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel and 8 million gallons of gasoline blendstock.

Russ said Velocys has paid the county $1 million for use of the Belwood Industrial Park. This includes $500,000 for the prior two years and another $500,000 for the next two years of development, he said.

“This is a huge opportunity for us as the project continues,” Russ said. “The benefit to the county is more than $1 billion of capital outlay to the site.”

Russ said the new industry could also employ 80 to 100 people directly as well as 300 to 400 people indirectly with outside and support jobs such as CDL drivers.

More information on the Biofuels Project can be found at velocys.com/projects/bayou-fuels.