Imperium Renewables has delayed plans to build a biodiesel plant in Hawaii, Peter Rosegg, a spokesman for Hawaiian Electric, told Greentech Media on Thursday.
The news comes a day after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported a second round of layoffs at the company (also see The Week: Tesla, Imperium Reduce Staff). In October, The Seattle-based company said it was planning to build a 100-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel plant, then expected to be up and running by late 2009, for Hawaiian Electric Co. at the Kalaeloa Harbor in Oahu.
But Imperium has since experienced some financial set backs and won’t build the plant by 2009, Rosegg added that it's unclear whether Imperium has put the plant on hold or nixed it altogether. Imperium has leased the land, but has not broken ground, he said.
"We are obviously disappointed," Rosegg said, adding that the utility wants to help create an agricultural energy industry. Imperium had originally planned to finance the plant with money raised from an initial public offering. But in January, the company announced it would delay its $345 million IPO, citing unfavorable market conditions (see Imperium IPO Delay Underlines Feedstock Shortage, Analyst Says).
Amid rumors that the Hawaii plant would be delayed as a result, Imperium spokesperson John Williams told Greentech Media in January that the company was still committed to building the Hawaiian plant and had not announced any changes. At the time, the plant was scheduled to begin operations by the end of this year and cost an estimated $91 million, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
Imperium did not return calls requesting an interview before press time Thursday.
But even if it cancels the Hawaiian plant, Imperium is still on the line to supply Hawaiian Electric with 5 million to 12 million gallons of biodiesel per year, according to its contract, Rosegg said.
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is still reviewing the contract, but Hawaii Electric expects the commission to approve it, he said.
Meanwhile, other news on Thursday indicates that more plants to produce oil for biodiesel are on the way. Feedstock prices have grown as biofuel process have remained low, squeezing company margins and causing a number of plants to be delayed or cancelled (see Mascoma to Play Smaller Role in Pilot Project, Plans for Two Cellulosic-Ethanol Plants Scrapped, Another Ethanol Plant Gets Cancelled, Poet Cancels Ethanol Plant, Ethanol Margins Suffer and Ethanol’s Tough Times Continue).
The new agreement voids a previous deal, announced last year, in which Icon planned to acquire a 20 percent interest in a PetroSun license to produce biodiesel from algae feedstock.
And EcoAlgae USA said it received approval from Saline County, Missouri, to build a plant to produce algae for biodiesel. The plant will be integrated into biorefinery that makes oil, cattle feed, electricity, cellulosic ethanol and steam, as well as biodiesel, from waste.