Imperium reduces Grays Harbor staff

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 09, 2009
Web exclusive posted March 17, 2009, at 3:37 p.m. CST

Imperium Renewables Inc. has reduced the workforce at its Imperium Grays Harbor biodiesel production facility, citing the dramatically reduced global demand for biodiesel, high feedstock prices and extreme volatility in the petroleum fuel markets. According to the company, 24 employees were laid off.

"This is an extremely painful step to take, given our employees' dedication to the company and to the greater cause of reducing our dependency on fossil fuels," said John Plaza, founder and chief executive officer of Imperium Renewables. "These are difficult choices that will allow Imperium to survive and grow when the market turns around for the biofuels industry. We understand this is a difficult blow to the Grays Harbor community. We remain committed to Grays Harbor and are doing everything we can to reverse the course our industry has taken."

Until recently, the soft U.S. biofuels market had been offset by demand in the European market, where mandate biodiesel markets had made biodiesel competitive. This advantage ended on March 3 when the EU enacted tariffs on imported U.S.-produced biodiesel. "This confluence of market-driven and geopolitical events has made it very difficult to operate our business as we had planned. The failure in implementation of U.S. policy initiatives such as the renewable fuel standard which was enacted by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has further deteriorated the market," Plaza said.

"Despite these challenges, we remain hopeful that there will be a strong future for biodiesel given the Obama administration's leadership on renewable energy," he continued. "He has called for doubling renewable energy consumption in the next three years, enforcing the existing renewable fuel mandates, and enacting future biofuel-friendly policies such as low-carbon fuel standards and a carbon emission cap and trade system. Such forward thinking policies will be required to create a stable market for current and next-generation biofuels."

The 100 MMgy Grays Harbor facility opened in August 2007. In October, Biodiesel Magazine reported that the company had received a cash infusion from existing investors which was largely used to repay a portion of its debts. (Read "Investors help Imperium Renewables to repay debts.")
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