Development in Progress

Proposed projects still move forward, potential suitors assess idled plant
By Bryan Sims | November 17, 2010
Although the biodiesel industry isn't exactly a model of success when it comes to economic prosperity today, plant developers are taking strategic approaches before they foray into the market. "Taking the time and doing the research, and really learning from other peoples' situations I think has made us a lot stronger," says Jon Hall, president and CEO of Bio-NRG LLC. The Mt. Pleasant, Iowa-based company intends to break ground on a 15 MMgy multifeedstock plant on 15 acres of land in LaHarpe, Ill., by 2011 with commercial operations slated for 2012. According to Hall, the $38 million plant will initially use soy oil from a soybean crushing facility to be built on site. In the future, Hall says, the company plans to incorporate an algae process that could be used to provide an alternative feedstock. When constructed, the plant will have the capability to produce soybean oil, meal, hulls, biodiesel, glycerol products, algae oil and algae biomass. "We're doing everything we can to identify and exploit some of these other alternative feedstocks out there than just using traditional methods," Hall says, adding that the company had finalized the project's debt financing package and permitting was awaiting approval.

Central Missouri Energy plans to build a 10 MMgy biodiesel plant in Fulton, Mo., using jatropha oil as feedstock, but the future of the project rests on securing financing, according to Fulton Area Development Corp. President and CEO, Bruce Hackmann. "The principles of the project still feel very confident in the plan they have," he says. "It's just really a matter of the financing at this point." CME's original cost of the project was $40 million, but logistical issues surrounding how the plant would source the jatropha from Mexico via rail or truck complicated how lenders have assessed the feasibility of the project, Hackmann says. "They had been working on getting funding for this project for three years," he says. "We're still optimistic. It's not dead by any stretch of the imagination."

Meanwhile, preliminary discussions began with a potential buyer for the 8 MMgy BEST BioDiesel Cashton LLC biodiesel plant in Cashton, Wis., but financing has not yet been finalized, according to Laxson Boyd, principal for Wadsworth Whitestar Consultants, a turnaround consulting firm assigned to maintain and market the plant for sale. "We're certainly finding it a challenge to locate a buyer who has access to funds and who is interested in operating a biodiesel plant under the current circumstances," he says. "The senior lender in this situation is certainly interested in finding a buyer as quickly as possible, but not at a price that means essentially walking away empty handed from the sale."
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