Clovis lands $16 million biodiesel plant

By Jean Verlich: CNJ News editor

Clovis city commissioners gave the green light Thursday for a $16 million biodiesel plant to be constructed at the city’s industrial park.

Commissioners approved their intent to issue industrial revenue bonds up to $15.3 million in connection with the proposed plant to be developed by ARES Corp. of Burlingame, Calif.

According to Chase Gentry, executive director of Clovis Industrial Development Corp., ARES is looking at 10 acres in the industrial park, and will be its first tenant.
Gerry Runte of ARES Clean Energy Business Unit told commissioners construction of the plant is expected to begin later this year and be operational by mid-2007. Runte said the plant will produce 15 million gallons of product annually from refined soybean oil as feedstock, delivered by rail. The soybean oil will be processed with methanol and glycerin at the plant. Biodiesel is blended with regular diesel for retail sale, he said.

Asked about water usage, Runte said the plant will use about 15,000 gallons daily, which officials from New Mexico American Water told him would be easily available, he said.

Queried about odors, Runte told commissioners there would essentially be no foul odors since the soybean oil smells like vegetable oil, methanol vapors are collected, and the methanol itself is reused. He also noted glycerin has no odor.

Runte said the facility will not generate any substantial solid waste.

Gentry said the facility is expected to have 10 employees.
ARES is a privately owned company founded in 1992, according to its Web site. Runte described it as a 500-person engineering firm and the fourth-largest engineering company in New Mexico, with operations in Albuquerque, Los Alamos and Sante Fe.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, commissioners:

• Prioritized their projects for state legislative capital outlay. The top five are wastewater effluent reuse, airport improvements and air-service enhancements, Martin Luther King Boulevard north-end expansion, Norris Street north-end expansion, and Wellness and Youth Development Center and Soccer Complex.

• Tabled action on adopting a resolution to change the makeup of the Parks and Recreation Board because of a lack of consensus.

• Named Commissioners Randy Crowder and Isidro Garcia to an Ethanol Plant Negotiation Task Force that will negotiate terms for the sale of wastewater to a new ethanol plant west of Clovis. The six-member task force also includes CIDC’s president, Lee Malloy, and Gentry as well as Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas and city attorney Dave Richards.