Officials: Biodiesel plant construction delayed

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Construction on the Clovis Biodiesel facility was stopped this week because of financial concerns and market reasons, according to a company official.

ARES Blue Sun Development Vice President Gerry Runte told city commissioners during Thursday’s regular meeting the delay was brought on by the rise in soy bean prices and a shortage of funds by one of the partners in the project.

Runte said he did not know how long the delay would last, but said he hopes the project sees completion in six to eight months.

Currently 80 percent complete, the construction was scheduled to be finished by late February and begin production of biodiesel from soy bean or canola oil feedstock in March, according to Clovis Industrial Corp. Executive Director Chase Gentry.

Project officials asked the City Commission to extend the projected completion date by a year so tax exemptions for the plant would remain valid.

The commission voted unanimously to extend the completion date.

Construction of the $18 million plant, which will produce about 15 million gallons of biodiesel a year from soy bean and canola oil, began early last year.

Runte said the price of soy beans has doubled in the last year and a half, from 20 cents a pound to 50 cents a pound. He said 15 percent fewer soy crops were planted this year compared to last year.

“Clearly the impact of people betting on ethanol has resulted in less soy crops,” he said.

The plant is a joint venture between ARES corporation and Blue Sun biodiesel.

Runte said Blue Sun’s attempt to become a publicly traded company has met some obstacles that has made it difficult for them to pay for its share of the project.

Runte said the remaining 20 percent of construction at the facility in the Clovis Industrial Park is the installation of equipment. The equipment is still on its way and will be stored in the plant until construction resumes.

“We have every intention of completing the plant, and we have every intention of running the plant,” Runte said.

In other business during Thursday, commissioners:

– Authorized to start designing phase one of the Effluent Reuse Pipeline project. This phase would create a pipeline from the city’s waste water treatment plant to the landfill, the city park on 14th and Hickory streets, and could extend to New Pond Lake on Llano Estacado and Wheaton streets, according to Mayor Pro-Tem and Commissioner Randy Crowder. The pipeline would supply recycled water to several public schools, the Clovis Community College and the Curry County Fairgrounds for irrigation and dust control, he said.

The first phase could cost between $8 million to $11 million depending on how far the pipeline would go, Crowder said.