"We're very busy in construction mode," Dalton said. "There is a lot of work to be done." Once completed, the plant would remove water from hydrous ethanol, converting it for use as a fuel additive in motor vehicles. GeoNet would then sell the dehydrated ethanol to mainland companies, which would blend it with their fuel product.
Dalton said many countries around the world are using fuel with an ethanol additive. Fuel mixed with up to 10 percent ethanol provides oxygen to the gas "so it burns cleaner," he said. A renewal energy source, ethanol reduces fossil energy and petroleum use and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.
GeoNet was granted a Coastal Zone Management permit in July. The company subsequently applied for and was granted status as a V.I. Economic Development Commission (EDC) beneficiary.
Myron Allick, Renaissance Group vice president of operations, has leased the land to GeoNet to build the plant. He said there are 30 to 40 local and off-island workers on site at the park, located on St. Croix's south shore.
Allick said he is still concerned with the island's lack of skilled workers that can be used in such a project. He said companies need to have a certain grade of specialized workers before they can insure a project. Although his company and Hovensa have instituted training programs, he said, more needs to be done.
The project, estimated at $9 million, has a dehydration capacity of approximately 100 million gallons per year and will be supplied by Industrias Dedini de Base in Piracicaba, Brazil.
According to both Allick and Dalton, ethanol additives could be used in the Virgin Islands if fuel producers elected to include it in their product. New cars models are designed to use the additive, they said.
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