BlueFire readies site for cellulosic plant construction this fall

By Kris Bevill | June 28, 2011

BlueFire Renewables Inc. has completed site work at its 19 MMgy wood waste-to-ethanol facility in Fulton, Miss., and is ready to begin construction as soon as it closes financing, according to CEO Arnold Klann. He expects financing to be in place no later than October and said the plant should begin producing ethanol in mid-2013.

Klann said the company is “working diligently” to complete financing and is optimistic that a $125 million USDA loan guarantee will be approved in the near future. The company had previously applied for a loan guarantee from the U.S. DOE, but has shifted its focus toward the USDA for assistance as a result of the DOE’s slow approval process. “We gave up on the DOE,” Klann said. “We realized there were too many hurdles to get through their side of the program."

The total project cost for BlueFire’s Mississippi plant is estimated at nearly $300 million. The company has been the recipient of $88 million in grants from the DOE over the course of the project’s development to date, some of which was utilized for the site preparation work, Klann said.

According to Klann, federal loan guarantees will be vital to bring in other investors for cellulosic ethanol projects such as BlueFire’s. Several recent successful public offerings from biofuels companies prove investors are ready to participate, he said, provided those projects can be de-risked. “I think as loan guarantees come to the forefront and as the lenders buy in, then the equity will come in and you’ll get these projects closed,” he said. “I see a flurry of activity happening, not only for BlueFire but for everyone who is promoting these biofuels projects, as these loan guarantee programs finally start kicking out the guarantees. Until that happens, I think you’ll find the market is still sluggish.”

BlueFire had initially planned to begin production at the Fulton plant in early 2013, but the financial climate has forced the company to push back its estimated start date by approximately 6 months, Klann said. The company now plans to begin production by July 2013.