Sarah Gantz – Baltimore Business Journal
A Halethorpe biofuel company could build four waste management sites and add up to 100 jobs in Maryland by 2014.
Fiberight LLC has been on the fast track to commercializing owner Craig Stuart-Paul’s technology for turning trash into biofuel since Stuart-Paul founded the company in 2007. In January, the company landed a $25 million loan guarantee from the USDA to convert a corn ethanol plant in Iowa to a biofuel facility.
In August, Fiberight, which currently employs 20, closed a $13 million round of closed private investor fundraise and just this month opened a demonstration plant in Virginia.
“It’s a very different animal than a chemical plant. We convert organics to biomass pulp that contains everything from food waste to used diapers, packaging waste — the organic part of garbage,” Stuart-Paul said.
The method entails collecting garbage, separating the usable organic parts, breaking it down to a pulp and deodorizing it, then processing it into fuel.
Maryland is an ideal location for the business because his method for creating fuel works best among high-density populations that can produce a lot of garbage.
“What you have is a lot of trash in the Maryland-D.C. area,” Stuart-Paul said.
The area also has a lot of traffic, which could mean a lot of potential customers — if they park on the Beltway for long enough. The fuel could also be used to power the garbage trucks serving the plants.
The four sites in Maryland and possibly Virginia would be the starting points for the process and the pulp created there would be sent on to a central plant to be turned into biofuel. He hopes to open them by the end of 2013.
Stuart-Paul is also finalizing a deal with a strategic partner to help pay for those plants. Said company would also provide technical support and access to corporate lawyers and public relations experts. He declined to identify the potential partner aside from saying it is a multinational company, and said he expects to announce the agreement in about two months.
Fiberight is among the growing businesses contributing to the rise of the clean-energy technology industry in Maryland, a state where other technology industries such as biotech and cyber security have already taken hold. Several biofuel companies call Maryland home, including Baltimore’s Marshall Energy Group LLC, which also produces wind and solar power, and another UMBC incubator company, Clean Green Chesapeake, which makes fuel from algae.
Public awareness of energy efficient and environmentally friendly options for energy and fuel has grown, as solar panels, hybrid cars and other innovations have become more mainstream.
“Clean energy is a sector that is potentially huge,” said Ellen Hemmerly, executive director of the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s research and development arm, bwtech@UMBC. “We think we’re going to see growth, but it’s a slower growth.”