Aemetis details progress with RNG, cellulosic ethanol projects

By Erin Voegele | May 13, 2019

Aemetis Inc. released first quarter 2019 financial results May 9, reporting progress with its advanced biofuel projects, including its proposed cellulosic ethanol plant and its dairy digester project to produce renewable natural gas (RNG).

During an earnings call, Eric McAfee, chairman and CEO of Aemetis, explained the company launched a RNG project last year that aims to build biogas digesters at about a dozen local dairies, construct a pipeline connecting these digesters to its corn ethanol plant in Keyes, California, and install gas conditioning to produce carbon-negative RNG.

McAfee said construction of the first two dairy digesters and related pipeline system is expected to be complete this year. The remaining digesters and systems included in the first phase of the project are expected to be complete next year.

To allow rapid deployment of the RNG project, McAfee said Aemetis announced its biogas subsidiary, Aemetis Biogas LLC, closed a $30 million equity investment in late December. In February, the company announced it was awarded two matching grants for a total of $3 million to build biomethane digesters at the first two dairies in its biogas project.

McAfee said the company has filed for additional matching grants to fund approximately 50 percent of project dairy costs to capture biogas in on-site digesters, deliver the biogas to the Keyes plant, and then either use the biogas in the ethanol plant’s existing boilers or convert the biogas to RNG.

During the call, McAfee also provided an update of the company’s proposed cellulosic ethanol plant in Riverbank, California. With a $125 million conditional commitment for a USDA loan guarantee now in place, McAfee said the company is focused on completing engineering for the plant. He said financial close to begin construction on the project is currently expected in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

Once operational, the 12 MMgy project will employ Lanzatech technology to convert wood waste from orchards, vineyards and other sources into cellulosic ethanol.

McAfee also discussed upgrades being made at the company’s 60 MMgy Keyes corn ethanol plant, including the installation of a $5 million membrane dehydration system from Mitsubishi Chemical. He said the Mitsubishi unit is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter. Once operational, the membrane system will reduce natural gas usage and decrease the carbon intensity of the plant, he said.

After three years in project development, McAfee also said construction has begun on a project by Linde Gas to build a CO2 liquefaction plant adjacent to the Keyes plant. The facility will convert 175,000 tons per year of renewable CO2 produced by the Keyes plant into liquid CO2 for sale to local food processors, beverage producers and other users. The CO2 plant is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.

Aemetis also owns a 50 MMgy biodiesel plant and refined glycerin biorefinery in India.

Aemetis reported $41.9 million in revenues for the first quarter, down slightly from $43 million reported for the same quarter of 2018. The volume of ethanol sold increased from 16.1 million gallons to 16.2 million gallons, which was offset by a softening in price from $1.76 per gallon to $1.68 per gallon.

Gross loss for the quarter as $400,000, compared to a gross profit of $1.9 million reported for the first quarter of 2018. Operating loss was $4.6 million, compared to an operating loss of $2 million. Net loss was $10.7 million, compared to $11.1 million for the first quarter of last year.