$9.5M investment to fund Biogenic Reagents expansion

MARQUETTE – A $9.5 million investment will help fund a major expansion of Michigan Renewable Carbon, a facility housed at K.I. Sawyer that processes biomass into carbon products.

The funding, which comes from the publicly-traded business development company MVC Capital Inc., will allow Biogenic Reagents – the Minneapolis-based company which owns and operates the Michigan Renewable Carbon facility – to diversify its carbon product portfolio.

“From the time we first started to convert the old biomass plant up there into our process, our goal has been to grow and expand that operation over a multi-year period,” Biogenic Reagents CEO Jim Mennell said Wednesday. “This is entirely consistent with our growth plan.”

The company manufactures activated carbon, which is used in air, food and water purification. Mennell said the company’s planned expansion will allow them to focus on additional applications.

“We’ve just finished a first, smaller expansion and this capital that is coming in is going to allow us to put in a bigger, additional line that will make an activated carbon that’s used specifically to control mercury emissions from large power plants,” he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury air toxics standard – set to go into effect in early 2015 – calls for a major decrease in mercury emissions from power plants.

“The product we are producing at this new line will go specifically to address that expanding mercury control market,” Mennell said.

Recent tests, he said, have shown that the company’s products can reduce mercury emissions from a coal-fired power plant by 98 percent.

“We are pleased to partner with Biogenic, as they continue to expand their footprint and grow their operations,” said Michael Tokarz, the chairman and portfolio manager of MVC. “Biogenic has developed an innovative solution manufactured in its leading-edge production facility that provides a higher performing set of activated carbon products at a lower price point.”

The company currently employs 21 people at its Sawyer facility, and Mennell said the goal was to have 45 employees by early 2015.

“We’ve got a specific growth plan and we’re hitting our targets for how we want to move products into the marketplace,” Mennell said. “Obviously, gaining additional expansion capital from a publicly traded entity (is a good sign). We’re excited about the growth.”

Michigan Renewable Carbon also specializes in metallurgical carbon for use in the refinement of specialty metals and thermal carbon for use in energy generation.

Michigan Renewable Carbon got off the ground last year, with the completion of the $30 million plant at Sawyer, which then had the capacity to annually process 300,000 tons of biomass into carbon products.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.