A drawing of the proposed $600 million-dollar Centerpoint BioFuels Plant by Fulcrum Bioenergy in Gary, Indiana Tuesday March 29, 2022. The plant was the topic of discussion during the monthly A Seat At The Table discussion at J’s Breakfast Club in Gary. (Andy. Lavalley for the Post-Tribune)
A drawing of the proposed $600 million-dollar Centerpoint BioFuels Plant by Fulcrum Bioenergy in Gary, Indiana Tuesday March 29, 2022. The plant was the topic of discussion during the monthly A Seat At The Table discussion at J’s Breakfast Club in Gary. (Andy. Lavalley for the Post-Tribune)
The $600 million Fulcrum Centerpoint trash-to-jet-fuel project in Buffington Harbor section of Gary could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the city, officials said.

The message was shared Tuesday during the monthly ‘A Seat at the Table’ event at J’s Breakfast Club where company officials joined city leaders and a couple community members to discuss the potential economic impact of the development.

Mayor Jerome Prince said economic development and redevelopment is a necessity in the city. Without question the Fulcrum bioenergy facility is a significant piece of development for the city, he said.

“I can’t tell you the last time the city of Gary realized an opportunity to have a $600 million infusion into our ecosystem,” Prince said, adding the city needs to manage the development responsibly by engaging with the community and sharing information with stakeholders.

The city has a responsibility to not only pursue reasonable and responsible economic development and send the right message to state parties we are ready for the type of change Gary so desperately desires and wants to see, Prince said.

Fulcrum Bioenergy plans to produce up to 33 million gallons of fuel per year and process up to 530,000 tons per year of prepared feedstock on the 75-acre site. The company will build two facilities to process the feedstock, one in Illinois and one along the Interstate 65 corridor in Indiana. Sites for those locations are being finalized.

Estimated capital cost of the project is $600 million and the company has secured $500 million in volume capital awarded by the Indiana Finance Authority.

The feedstock is comprised of nonhazardous organic and carbon-based fraction of household trash. Between 90 and 100 trucks per day will deliver the feedstock in enclosed trailers. The feedstock is then gasified, a commercially proven technology that breaks it down at a high temperature turning it into a gas. Nothing is burned or incinerated. The gasification process is an enclosed loop, officials said.

Tom Yonge, project engineer, said what Fulcrum has planned is not the trash-to-energy facilities discussed in the past where a bunch of trash is brought into the city and dumped into a kiln or incinerator to burn. Feedstock for the facility is processed off-site before being brought to Gary.

AJ Bytnar, director of redevelopment, said a project like Fulcrum Centerpoint allows the city to move forward on multiple fronts by providing additional revenue investment in community while also attracting additional companies.

Bytnar said a $600 million development is does not come along every day.

“This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime investments,” Bytnar said.

The company also has been working to fulfill a promise to employ Gary residents. The project will create 130 full-time jobs in the green energy sector. One component of that is training. Company representatives have been meeting Ivy Tech Community College to discuss what training programs could be implemented to create a job ready workforce.

Gary Common Council President William Godwin, D-1st, said seeing was believing. Godwin said he voted against the plan when it came before the council because he had lingering questions. Godwin said he was able to visit the Fulcrum’s sister facility Sierra Bioenergy in Nevada were many of his questions were answered.

Godwin said he was impressed by the operation, the professionalism of the staff and the way the process actually worked.

“It was quite an interesting place,” Godwin said. “I think it is very much a real company. Obviously, a lot of research has been done.”

Trent A. McCain, deputy mayor, said for comparison the Hard Rock Northern Indiana is a $350 million project that has become the No. 1 casino in Indiana generating $30 million a month in revenues. You can imagine what a $600 million investment in the city can mean, he said.

Alain Castro, vice president of development or Fulcrum Centerpoint, said Gary has immense potential due to its location next to Chicago, Lake Michigan and a network of existing infrastructure including highway and rail.

Castro said Fulcrum came for the infrastructure that was left behind from the city’s industrial past.

“We are talking about building a plant here we truly believe will be here 50 or 60 years or longer,” Castro said. While the initial process will use some natural gas, ultimately the goal is to power the facility with hydrogen.

“I truly believe that the clean energy industry as a whole is the fastest growing subsection right now and Fulcrum is the darling of that industry,” he said.

Much like the original automotive manufacturers in Detroit, all kinds of support industries are expected to locate in the city once the plant is operational, officials said.

“I truly believe a project like this can contribute in a very meaningful way to uplift this town and help it achieve the potential it has,” he said.
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