Lake County solid waste officials began their first meeting of 2013 in much the same position as the last of 2012 — still waiting to see if a long-proposed trash-to-ethanol project will come to fruition.
At Thursday night's Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board meeting, a representative of a region construction consortium said his group remains optimistic it will be able to build and open a plant in Schneider that would consolidate the county's trash collections and transform its carbon-based trash into ethanol.
But investors remain hesitant to fund the project until a smaller plant in Vero Beach, Fla., shows it can produce commercial-grade ethanol fuel using the same process proposed for Lake County, consortium representative Ed Cleveland said.
Cleveland said the company that owns the trash-to-ethanol process, INEOS Bio, has told his consortium that the chemical company plans to announce it has reached commercial production of ethanol by sometime in the first quarter of this year.
A previous release from INEOS had indicated possible ethanol production by late 2012.
And four years into a contract that was supposed to usher in such a facility in Lake County, several county solid waste board members have been expressing frustration.
Cleveland told the board Thursday that INEOS had yet to obtain an environmental permit for its Florida facility to produce ethanol from municipal solid waste — or carbon-based garbage. The Florida facility currently only has a permit to produce ethanol from yard waste and other vegetative matter.
Under the Lake County contract, municipal solid waste would be used to produce ethanol.
Speaking at the Thursday meeting, board member David Nellans, a Munster town councilman, expressed disappointment after hearing about the permit issue.
"I would like to see something happening at a little faster pace," Nellans said. "I'm disappointed they don't have the (municipal solid waste) permit already in hand."
Cleveland said his consortium shares in some of those sentiments.
The group has said it cannot obtain funding to build the plant — or to purchase the technology license from another developer — until the Florida plant successfully produces fuel-grade ethanol on a commercial scale.