An $185-million biofuel facility in Botwood is coming closer to getting a green light.
NewGreen Technology Inc, the company behind the project, will soon be offered a tentative deal by Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial government for the allocation of wood fibres on crown lands, CBC News has learned.
Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods Minister Steve Crocker would not confirm the agreement on Monday afternoon, but said he was confident his department could give the go-ahead for NewGreen Technology to move on to the next step.
"As for the fibre that the company requires, I'm quite confident as a province we are able to supply that fibre," he said.
The project would provide between 400 to 600 jobs during construction, with about 150 permanent positions down the road, according to the company's preliminary estimates.
The operation has been stalled since owners secured a tentative land deal with the town of Botwood in June. The next steps for the facility hinged on getting a go-ahead from the forestry minister.
Crocker said his department has to ensure there is enough available wood to supply the project.
The facility will rely heavily on the former Abitibi Bowater timber stand, which contains about 280,000 cubic metres of wood.
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The new project is three-pronged — a sawmill producing 20 million board feet of lumber annually, a biofuel plant creating a form of clean diesel from the sawmill's waste products and a revitalization of the town's shipping port for exporting products.
'We have to make sure our forest management plans match with a commitment of 20, maybe 40 years.' - Steve Crocker
The biofuel will be sent to European markets, where it is mixed with regular fuel to meet clean energy standards.
Crocker said he expects to confirm there is sufficient lumber for the project within the next few days.
But this is not the first time a deal has been within grasp. In September, sources told CBC a decision on the allotment could be days away — but nothing came to fruition.
While some involved griped about the province dragging its feet, Crocker said the government had to ensure sustainability.
"We have to make sure our forest management plans match with a commitment of 20, maybe 40 years," he said. "So we [have to] identify that fibre and make sure that we have a consistent supply."
The next step will be a review of the business plan by the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, headed by Minister Christopher Mitchelmore.
In May, Mitchelmore visited the owner of Proton Power — the company behind the technology for the proposed biofuel plant — in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Powerful name backing biofuel plant
As the plant comes closer to fruition, more is becoming known about the company behind the dealings.
NewGreen Technology was formed in 2015, a partnership between Jeff Penney, of Corner Brook, Jim Hughes, of Georgetown, Ont., and Peter Steele, of Dartmouth, N.S.
Penney comes with more than 20 years experience in forestry, while Hughes has experience in banking and financing.
Steele is the oldest son of Harry Steele, owner of Newfoundland Capital Corporation and nearly 100 radio stations across Canada.
Proton Power, meanwhile, would provide the technology and then stay on in a consulting role.