Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

Ethanol Plant set to reopen
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 19, 2013, 14:13

FILE PHOTOS BY JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The ethanol plant in Hopewell has sat mostly vacant for years, but could reopen early next year.

HOPEWELL — After a long and somewhat painful history, the ethanol plant in Hopewell will finally open its doors in February of next year. The announcement was made at the Hopewell Community Industrial Panel meeting on Monday night by Vireol plant manager Larry Wilson. 

Earlier this year it was announced that the Appomattox Bio Energy Plant in Hopewell was bought by Future Fuels LLP, based in Great Britain, for $13 million. Ged Russell, Technical Director for Vireol Bio-Industries PLC came to the city in the weeks following the announcement and said the plant would be taken apart and shipped overseas to England to be used to build a plant, almost identical to Osage, to produce bio-fuel. 

Then Osage got another future when Scoular Company, based in the Midwest, signed an agreement with Vireol to lease the one-million bushel grain terminal on the plant site. Russell said the parts that were not being shipped to England, would get some use in the city. 

Now, another future has been made for plant. In February of next year, operations will not begin immediately. The process will start with the inspection of equipment and securing staff for the plant. There will be 75 jobs at the plant, with 45 of the jobs being Vireol employees and 25 being sub-contractors with most of the positions requiring a college degree. 

Craig Shealy, co-founder and former CEO of Osage, began the journey with the plant three years ago, only to see it never open its doors. Though Shealy never got to see the plant fully operational, he is pleased another company came in and saw the potential at the plant he saw all those years ago. 

“Hopefully they can have a great success with it,” Shealy said. “I am excited to see what they can do. Hopefully they can realize the opportunity we saw. … It’s great to see someone make a go out of it.” 

City Manager Mark Haley echoed the same sentiments as Shealy. He said it was time for the plant to have a future in city, one void of the negativity that has swarmed around the plant for years. 

When Haley met with the representatives from Vireol earlier this year, he knew there was the potential of opening the plant, noting Vireol had conducted a lot of research into beginning operations as opposed to disassembling the plant. 

While Haley was not for certain what the economic impact of the plant will be, he is certain that Vierol coming to the city to stay will mean nothing but good news. 

“I was also heartened that they indicated to me if they made the decision to run, that their intent is not a fly by night operation,” Haley said. “That they are here for the long haul. That’s even better news in my book. … We hope to have them as a member of our industrial community and community in general for many years to come.” 

Haley also added that for those seeking jobs at the plant, Vireol has indicated they are advertising with the Virginia Employment Commission and the company has attended job fairs in the area. 

Mayor Mike Bujakowski, though surprised at the announcement that was made at the meeting Monday night, remains pleased that the company will be opening their doors in February. 
FILE PHOTOS BY JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The ethanol plant in Hopewell has sat mostly vacant for years, but could reopen early next year.

“If it is true that they’re going to open in February, it will generate some jobs and some jobs for local people,” Bujakowski said. “Overall I think at the end of the day, the plant is there now and it’s going to be used. It’s going to pay taxes and anything that’s going to increase the tax base is good.” 

Though the news has pleased many in the city, an official public announcement is still pending. The plant will be a multi-grain plant and will not just be using corn for ethanol production.

Earlier in the year, Russell indicated the original plan to tear down the plant still stood, but now, the plant will stand, all pieces intact in, Hopewell. 

“There has been a positive message of support, and people involved, to help us look at options,” Russell said earlier this year. “There is a positive business culture here. What we’re finding is an opportunity for a long-term future for the site. We will proudly put our name on the gate and hopefully lose the negative connotations that come with the Osage name. This is a new found business that will be ongoing in the community.”  

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