Biofuel Start-up Opens Plant in Hillsborough

Can gas grow on trees? A start-up company in Hillsborough is taking alternative energy to a new level. On Friday, Primus Green Energy officially opened a demo plant that will produce biofuel from a range of New Jersey-based sources.

The CEO of Primus says the company chose New Jersey to set up shop because of the depth of knowledge of the workforce.

“We’re in New Jersey to draw from the talent pool, it’s essential the human capital, it’s the high tech corridor that we’re in. We’re 12 miles of Princeton University,” said CEO Robert Johnsen.

The plant is set up to convert natural gas, wood pellets and locally-produced feedstock to create blended gasoline that can be pumped from current gas stations into cars that are now on the road, without having to build new fueling stations.
Former governor Jim Florio, who was at today’s event, admits it’s a tough road ahead for any start-up, but says New Jersey is leading the way.
“New Jersey has always been the center of many of the innovations in the environment and energy. In some respects, it’s because we have a lot of problems and therefore we’re trying to resolve those problems,” said Florio.

Green energy companies often begin with lots of excitement, but they face steep challenges. Among them, scaling up to a size that makes them economically viable. To do that, they need to raise a tremendous amount of capital.

So far, an Israeli company has invested the entire $40 million in start-up money to get this demo plant on line.  The company says it will need an additional $140 million to begin commercial production.  
At local gas stations, where gas prices are still high, drivers say they want alternatives, but are skeptical.

Mike Farinaro, a Hillsborough resident, said “You need more cars that will support alternative fuels for it to be effective.”

Another resident, Leah Kimbelman, said “We need greener gas.. we definitely need alternative fuels.”

The company hopes to produce gas for around $60 a barrel, which is about $20 less than crude costs now.  But Primus must first convince investors that the future in gas starts with wood pellets.
Reporting from Hillsborough, Andrew Schmertz files this report.