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BELVIDERE, NJ-The project is in the relatively early stages ofdiscussion, but if the pieces fall into place, this Warren Countycommunity could soon get a major ethanol-producing plant. Accordingto published reports, East Coast Energy Solutions, a Hightstown,NJ-based company headed by president Susan Ruch, is looking tobuild just such a facility.

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Local and company officials confirm that discussions are underway for the project, and it's actually a three-way discussion.Besides ECES and local and county officials, DSM NutritionalProducts Inc. is at the table as well. The Swiss-based company hasa major complex here, with excess acreage that's said to be thepossible site for the plant.

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Details remain sketchy owing to the relatively early stages, butECES officials have confirmed a few numbers. The project's pricetag is estimated to be in the $120 million range, and the projectedimpact will translate into about 40 full-time jobs at a plant thatwill turn out some 40 million gallons of the alternative fuelannually.

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The local site is under consideration for two reasons, say ECESofficials. One is that it is in the middle of the grain-richfarmlands of Warren and the adjacent Hunterdon counties. Most ofthat grain currently goes to feed mills across the Delaware Riverin Pennsylvania but, "the plant will use as much local corn aspossible," says a spokesman for the company.

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The second reason is proximity to East Coast refineries,including those along the New Jersey Turnpike in Middlesex, Union,Essex and Hudson counties. That proximity lends itself to low-costshipping for the purpose of mixing the alternative fuel withregular petroleum to create a blend.

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Discussions remain preliminary at this point but, "we willupdate the progress of this venture before Christmas," says theECES spokesman. There are presently approximately 100 ethanolplants in the US, with another 40 under construction, according tothe spokesman. And besides the plant proposed for this location,ECES has another proposal on the table for Bridgeton, in SouthJersey.

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