Auburn, Maine [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] The first steps are underway in Maine towards the construction of a forest products biorefinery. The project would produce liquid fuels, steam, electricity, high-value biologically based chemicals and other products using renewable forest-based resources in a state with no shortage of biomass.The project would be the first of its kind in North America, according to University of Maine, and its partner, Pennsylvania-based Safe Handling. The feasibility analysis is now underway for the facility. With the growing demand for green chemicals and fuels, and oil prices hovering near $60 a barrel, with its abundant natural biomass resources, Maine is well positioned to become a leader in converting forest-based materials into value-added products that could in turn help provide new jobs and markets for the Maine economy. “Maine has the necessary high-quality feedstocks such as paper sludges and wood wastes for bioenergy end uses,” said Ford Reiche, President of Safe Handling. “If our analysis shows that we can manage it technically and economically, we look forward to bringing this new industry to Maine, The University of Maine will be bringing expertise derived from decades of work with Maine’s pulp and paper industry, as well as expertise in chemical and biological engineering. “In the last five years, there have been great developments in the laboratory, turning wood and wood manufacturing wastes into fuels and chemicals,” said Dr. Hemant Pendse, Chair of the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering. “Our challenge in Maine is to move these developments from the lab to the factory floor, and be proactive in getting ready for new feedstocks that are on the horizon. In addition to its own staff and the University of Maine, Safe Handling will be working with a number of nationally recognized experts in bio-product development for the project. Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, a Portland, Maine firm, with extensive experience in biomass project development, will act as project coordinator. By December 2006, Safe Handling will have completed all analysis necessary to determine how to develop a bio-product facility that is technically and economically viable. Project funding will be provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Safe Handling Inc. and the Maine Technology Institute.