KiOR's future remains in doubt

May 14, 2014 10:14:36 AM

William Browning - [email protected]


KiOR issued its report on the first quarter of 2014 to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday and the company again stated that it has concerns about its biofuel operation's future. 


"We do not believe we can restart the Columbus facility on an economically viable basis at this time," the company wrote in the report. "And therefore cannot be certain as to whether we will be able to successfully secure additional financing or the ultimate timing of such additional financing." 


The Texas-based alternative fuel maker built a $218 million plant on The Island in 2011. The plant converts wood chips to fuel. But the facility -- the first commercial-size cellulosic biofuel plant in the United States -- has never reached full capacity as the company has struggled to perfect its first-of-its-kind process. 


The plant has not operated since December. 


Fred Cannon, the company's CEO, said the plan was to use the first three months of 2014 to focus on research and development and technical improvements at the facility. In Monday's SEC filing, however, KiOR said it has made no progress on that front since the end of March. 


"We have suspended all optimization projects we began during the first quarter of 2014 in order to bring the Columbus facility to a safe, idle state," the filing states. 


In late March, the company, which has run into financing problems, entered into a deal worth $25 million with a company controlled by Vinod Khosla, a billionaire California investor. The company stated at the time that the deal would keep KiOR out of bankruptcy through August. 


The company said in the SEC filing that even if it meets performance milestones, "Khosla must determine, in its sole discretion, that the purchase of additional notes is appropriate for us to continue our operations before we can make additional borrowings." 


If more financing is not secured by Aug. 31, the company states, "we will not have adequate liquidity to fund our operations and meet our obligations." KiOR officials say that if that happens bankruptcy is likely. 


The company has roughly $279.5 million of debt, including a $75 million loan from the Mississippi Development Authority. The company still owes $69 million on that loan. 


The next bi-annual payment of $1.8 million on the MDA loan is due in June. 


Roughly 110 people are employed at KiOR's Columbus facility. No one has been laid off, according to Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development LINK.

William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.