KiOR looks for seat at international table

Reported by: Susan Parker
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Updated: 5/21/2013 7:00 pm
COLUMBUS, Miss. (WTVA) -- Just call it the perfect marriage.

Mississippi's forest products industry needs to sell trees. It just so happens KiOR is ready to buy.

They are  producing fuel in a way that just might make mother nature jealous.

"We do what nature does over millions of years in a matter of seconds in our processes here," Plant Manager Mike O'Keefe said.

KiOR is making fuel from trees-specifically Southern Yellow Pine which are the same trees that are used to make paper and pulp by the state's paper mills.

"This is a very new process. To my knowledge, no one else is doing what we do today," O'Keefe added.

Trees are chipped into sawdust which is then processed using high-tech machinery and technology. 

They are able to make crude oil, refine it, and then sell it themselves. They are marketing their product for use in cars, trucks, and maybe one day commercial airliners.

All this is possible through funding from a billionaire backer, other large institutional investors, and the state of Mississippi.

Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour recruited the company to provide jobs that were being lost due to a decline in the pulp and paper industry.

Federal law requires refiners spend money on renewable fuel sources. That money helps as this company works to establish itself in a world that remains dependent on fossil fuels.

"It's one of the many solutions to the dependency on foreign oil and the need for renewable fuels," O'Keefe said.

For now, much is riding on the acceptance of this renewable fuel source. Nothing is certain, but those who believe in this technology are pressing forward with confidence.

The Columbus plant currently employs 100 people.
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