Beth Hahn, Hobbs News-Sun. September 6th, 2012
Paul Laur, president of Eldorado Biofuels, was nothing but polite Wednesday afternoon during a New Mexico Legislative Radioactive and Hazardous Materials committee meeting at New Mexico Junior College.
Laur previewed one of Eldorado’s projects, which is currently under construction west of Jal, to the committee.
“We are in a very good situation,” he said of New Mexico. “There is ample sunshine, large surface area and we’re not competing with (food) crops for space.”
Laur was complimentary of the state and told the committee, comprised of state senators and representatives, that New Mexico has an opportunity to be a leader in the biofuels industry.
Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, though, stopped Laur.
“Some people at the state level have been less than receptive,” said Leavell, who represents the area impacted by the project. “At least one person in a state department told (Laur) to take his project to Pecos, Texas. I don’t think that’s the kind of attitude we need coming from our state departments.”
Laur said during the past several months, Eldorado Biofuels ran into several roadblocks at the state level while applying for licenses for the Jal algae project.
For example, under one set of state regulations, the algae project is classified as an oil well, Laur said.
Under another set of regulations, the algae project is considered a dairy.
Eldorado is planning to use produced water — that is, water injected underground to bring oil and gas products to the surface — to grow algae.
Laur said the algae can digest many of the byproducts in produced water. The algae can then be converted into petroleum-type products ranging from plastics and cosmetics jet fuel.
“Anything that can be made from petroleum can be made from algae,” Laur told the committee.
Eldorado chose to build one algae project near Jal because of the availability of produced water.
Rep. Jim Hall, R-Los Alamos, said he would like to see state regulations changed to be more friendly to algae projects.
“It appears our state policy could be behind the development of new technologies,” he said.
Laur said the U.S. Navy is looking for ways to reduce the amount of petroleum it uses.
“You can power large vessels with nuclear (energy), you can power cities with solar and wind,” he said. “But it’s awfully hard to fly a jet with those technologies.”
Laur said the time is right for New Mexico to become a leader in biofuel production.
Eventually, biofuels made in New Mexico could power U.S. Navy fleets, he said.
Rep. Don Bratton, R-Hobbs, said he is pleased with Eldorado’s plan to use oilfield wastewater.
“There’s a lot of produced water in this state,” he said. “If we can put it to use, it would be a great value.”
The committee made no decisions regarding Eldorado during Wednesday’s hearing.
Beth Hahn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 391-5436.