Pacific Ethanol starts up Stockton plant

By Anna Austin | September 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted Oct. 3, 2008 at 2:07 p.m. CST

Despite seeing considerable net losses in the fourth quarter of 2007, California-based Pacific Ethanol Inc. continues to pave its way through the volatile ethanol market with the recent announcement of its Stockton, Calif., plant commencing operations.

The company reported a loss of $14.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, as a result of high feedstock prices and a slump in ethanol demand. After securing $40 million from stock sales, Pacific Ethanol was able to move forward with its 50 MMgy Burley, Idaho, plant.

The company continued to weather the storm of financial troubles. On Sept. 29 it announced the start-up of its Stockton plant, which it began building in the spring of 2007. A celebration ceremony is planned for Oct. 10.

The 60 MMgy facility, which will process an estimated 21 million bushels of corn per year to produce ethanol, will also generate 500,000 tons of wet distillers grains, which the company hopes to market to local dairy famers. The plant is located at the Port of Stockton, where Pacific Ethanol has secured a 50-year lease on the 30-acre site.

Pacific Ethanol President and Chief Executive Officer Neil Koehler said the start-up of the Stockton plant marks the achievement of the company's goal to produce 220 million gallons annually and dramatically increase the availability of renewable fuels produced in the state of California.

Pacific Ethanol has ethanol facilities in Madera, Calif.; Boardman, Ore; and Burley, Idaho. In December 2007, the company halted construction of an additional plant in Imperial Valley near Calipatria, Calif., until market conditions improve. The project has still not resumes.

In early 2008, Pacific Ethanol received a grant from the U.S. DOE to collocate a cellulosic pilot plant with its Boardman, Ore., facility. The test plant, which will commence construction in 2009, will convert wheat straw, wood chips and corn stover to ethanol.