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Columbus biofuel plant to resume operations in spring

 

KiOR’s Fred Cannon answers questions  during a Rotary Club  luncheon  at Lion Hills on Tuesday. Cannon updated  Rotarians on KiOR’s operations.

KiOR’s Fred Cannon answers questions during a Rotary Club luncheon at Lion Hills on Tuesday. Cannon updated Rotarians on KiOR’s operations. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff

 

Sarah Fowler

 

KiOR's biofuels plant in Columbus will likely be up and running again in April, according to CEO Fred Cannon. 

 

The Texas-based alternative fuel company's 500-ton per day facility on The Island has been shut down since the beginning of January for maintenance, Cannon said. 

 

"We'll take this first quarter to do a turnaround at the plant and do a lot of maintenance, as well as fix and improve some things that we've learned," the CEO said. "It's just standard maintenance. Any refinery takes turnaround at some frequency. You do a lot of inspections, for instance. Just standard maintenance." 

 

Cannon spoke to members of the Columbus Rotary Club at Lion Hills Tuesday.  

 

Figuring out the temperament of the technology that turns wood chips into crude oil isn't easy, Cannon said, admitting there have been "hiccups" with production since the plant began operations last year. 

 

"We started last year with 20 percent on stream the first quarter," he said. "We ended the year close to seventy percent on stream but we designed this plant over three years ago so we've learned a lot since then. We've learned starting it up and what we're doing now is taking a turnaround to go in and fix some things and get it right so we can get the productions rates up." 

 

While the plant is having some mechanical issues, Cannon said the catalyst -- one of the key components that turn the wood chips into crude oil -- is working smoothly. 

 

"The core catalyst and the reactor, that's working, that's worked well," he said. "We're very pleased with core technology." 

 

Cannon said a system of trial and error is to be expected when launching a product that is the first of it's kind. 

 

"I've done this a long time and bringing a totally new, first of its kind technology to commercial scale is not a cakewalk," he said. "You have to just work your way through it. You have problems and you have to solve them. You've got another problem and you solve it and then one day, these plants, they run well." 

 

In addition to its plant in Columbus, KiOR has a 1,500-ton per day facility planned in Natchez. The company is also talking about purchasing additional land on The Island to construct a second 500-ton per day facility. When asked about the status of the land purchase, Cannon said it was still in the works. 

 

"KiOR is working with both Lowndes County and Adams County on sites for future KiOR facilities," he said. "We look forward to getting these matters finalized so we can continue to grow as a company while being an economic engine for the state of Mississippi." 

 

KiOR, which is traded on the NASDAQ exchange, closed at $1.13 per share at the end of trading yesterday. The stock's value has ranged from $1.10 to $6.35 over the past 52-weeks.

 

Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah

 

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