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

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

Details remain sketchy owing to the relatively early stages, but ECES officials have confirmed a few numbers. The project’s price tag is estimated to be in the $120 million range, and the projected impact will translate into about 40 full-time jobs at a plant that will turn out some 40 million gallons of the alternative fuel annually.

The local site is under consideration for two reasons, say ECES officials. One is that it is in the middle of the grain-rich farmlands of Warren and the adjacent Hunterdon counties. Most of that grain currently goes to feed mills across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania but, “the plant will use as much local corn as possible,” says a spokesman for the company.

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-cost shipping for the purpose of mixing the alternative fuel with regular petroleum to create a blend.

Discussions remain preliminary at this point but, “we will update the progress of this venture before Christmas,” says the ECES spokesman. There are presently approximately 100 ethanol plants in the US, with another 40 under construction, according to the spokesman. And besides the plant proposed for this location, ECES has another proposal on the table for Bridgeton, in South Jersey.

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