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Solugen plant gets $213 million federal loan offer

Loan would finance construction of Marshall chemical plant

MARSHALL — The Solugen chemical plant under construction in Marshall may be getting more than $213 million in federal loan funding. While the deal hasn’t been finalized yet, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has announced a conditional commitment for Solugen to build its Bioforge Marshall plant.

Solugen broke ground for Bioforge Marshall in April. The Bioforge will use corn sugar from the Archer Daniels Midland plant in Marshall to make chemicals that would normally be produced from petroleum.

In a June 13 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Chris Creed, chief investment officer for the DOE’s Loan Programs Office, said the office was excited to offer the commitment. “This transaction is going to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions versus the business-as-usual case for the chemicals market for a lot of in-demand manufacturing needs, and that’s very cool,” Creed said.

“Tapping into DOE’s deep bench of scientific and engineering expertise will allow us to better execute on this landmark project,” Solugen spokespeople said Thursday. “We’re thrilled to be working together in bringing critical chemical production capabilities onshore while ensuring communities like Marshall can benefit from the economic growth and workforce opportunities a U.S. bioeconomy brings.”

The conditional commitment is the single largest U.S. government investment in bioindustrial manufacturing since President Biden signed an executive order on advancing biotechnology and biomanufacturing in 2022, the DOE said in a news release.

The conditional commitment for a $213.6 million loan guarantee is being offered through the Loan Programs Office’s Title 17 Clean Energy Financing Program, the news release said. The program helps finance projects that use innovative energy technologies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution.

In order to receive a loan through the program, applicants must go through a review and due diligence process with the LPO. They must also meet the terms of a conditional commitment before receiving a loan.

Solugen’s first production plant, Bioforge Houston, opened in 2021.

At this spring’s groundbreaking ceremony, Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt said Bioforge Marshall will make organic acids, with new technology that uses enzymes and metal catalysts. The acids made in Marshall would be used for a variety of purposes, including in the concrete, cleaning, agricultural and energy industries.

Solugen leaders said the plant will have 50 to 60 employees once it’s fully operational.

In the news release, the DOE said the Bioforge Marshall project would also reduce emissions by up to 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That would be equivalent to the emissions produced by powering about 3,500 homes per year, the release said.

Solugen will also develop and implement a community benefits plan, the release said. As part of that community outreach, Solugen signed memorandums of understanding with Marshall Public Schools and the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council, and committed to serving as curriculum advisors for students and sharing internship and training opportunities. The release said Solugen has also discussed its employee recruitment and training needs with Minnesota West Community and Technical College and Southwest Minnesota State University.

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