New use for an old brewery -- making the 'hol' for gasolhol

A nine-acre brewery in New Jersey that has been closed for more than two years could be back in operation by July. But instead of beer, it will "brew" ethanol, the alcohol portion of the fuel gasohol.

The Carter administration's offer of incentives for production of gasohol encouraged the conversion of the brewery in the City of Orange, near New York, into the first major ethanol plant on the East Coast. Once a key unit of the Rheingold Extra Dry Beer firm, the plant was shut down in October, 1977, when producing rights to Rheingold beer were sold to C. Schmidt & Son Co. of Philadelphia, another brewer.

If the $3.1 million financing plans succeed, as they are expected to, private investment in the conversion will be supplemented by federal and state funds. ConCology Inc., a New Jersey firm, will be able to reopen the old brewery "within months" as a modern ethanol manufacturing plant. Initial plans call for processing 5 million bushels of New Jersey corn in the first year to produce about 7 million gallons of "fuel grade" ethanol.

ConCology Inc. already has commitments for marketing all the ethanol it can produce.

Although plans for converting the brewery have been under way for several months, the news came at a time President Carter was announcing in Washington "a major new gasohol program" that would supplement strained fuel supplies and provide a domestic market for grain ordinarily sold to the Soviet Union.

The Carter administration has announced tax credits, tax waivers, and federal loans and loan guarantees intended to promote gasohol production. The program, drafted over a period of 18 months, envisions an expenditure of between $8.5 billion and $13 billion through the 1980s. Its immediate goal is production of 5 billion gallons of gasohol (requiring about 500 million gallons of ethanol) in 1981. The long-term objective is production of 20 billion gallons of gasohol annually during the second half of the decade.

US gasoline consumption now is about 50 billion gallons a year, so such a production level could fill roughly one-third o the nation's fuel needs, with a substantial reduction of imported oil.

Gasohol has never been produced in this country on a large scale. Ethanol is mixed with gasoline (10 percent ethanol to 90 percent gasoline) to produce gasohol. Only about 80 million gallons of ethanol were produced in this country in 1979, enough for limiting marketing of gasohol.

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