March 28, 2014 11:01:39 AM
FULTON -- The U.S. Department of Energy has withdrawn its support for a biofuels company's $300 million cellulose plant in Fulton.
BlueFire Renewables officials tell the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal they are appealing the decision.
The company expected to begin construction by August to meet a 2015 completion date.
The funding represented an $88 million investment in the plant, which will be designed to produce approximately 19 million gallons of ethanol per year and employ between 70 and 80 people.
The plant's remaining funds come from a number of private sources and business partnerships.
The news stems from a Dec. 23, 2013, filing of Form 8-K with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in which the company states that it received notification that it was losing its funding through the DOE because of its "inability to comply with certain deadlines related to providing certain information to the DOE with respect to (BlueFire Renewables) future financing arrangements for the Fulton Project."
Form 8-K is a common form used to notify investors of important events and changes in the company's structure or funding.
"(BlueFire Renewables) shall exhaust all options available to it in order to reverse the DOE's decision," the company's statement reads, although it also states that they "cannot make any assurances that the DOE's decision will be reversed on appeal or that such an appeal will be heard at all."
The form states that if the appeal is denied, BlueFire Renewables will devise a new strategy and seek other avenues for funding the Fulton project.
Since it was first announced in 2009, BlueFire Renewables' planned Fulton cellulose plant has gone through a series of delays, leading many to speculate that the project may be floundering.
Officials have said ethanol production -- which involves fermenting raw materials for their sugar to create an alcohol that can replace petroleum-based fuels -- is still a relatively new technology, so the construction of a large ethanol refinery might be expected to take longer than those involving established technologies.
The site is basically ready for construction, and has been since 2011.
The company continues to invest money in the Fulton project, including the partial funding of recent prep work for the site, plus work at the port that will be utilized by the plant once it's up and running.
BlueFire also pays the county a monthly lease on the site. This "long-term lease" will continue through 2015.