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KiOR facility remains on track

NATCHEZ — Officials with alternative fuel company KiOR said Thursday they are committed to breaking ground at their proposed Natchez facility as early as March.

KiOR Chief Executive Officer Fred Cannon, who spoke of the project during the company’s third quarter earnings conference call, said such a timetable would be subject to the company’s financing.

“We still think we’re on track to deliver (a) commercial production-added facility (in Natchez) in late 2014,” Cannon said.

Based on work the company has done so far, the Natchez project should cost approximately $350 million, he said.

“In the next quarter or so, we’ll have a much better handle — having done more on our front-end engineering and design — on the exact cost and scope of the project,” Cannon said.

The CEO said that in addition to having cleared the site for the company’s Natchez project — the former Belwood Country Club — KiOR has done all of its geoscientific work on the site.

“We’re going through engineering and technical now on designing for the future,” Cannon said.

The proposed Natchez project will produce a renewable cellulostic biofuel that uses dry biomasses such as wood products. KiOR officials have previously said that a key component on getting work started in Natchez would be to get their Columbus plant — which does what the Natchez plant is slated to do in a smaller capacity — in production, and Thursday Cannon said the Columbus facility began production in October.

“Our proprietary technology is operating as designed at commercial scale and producing a high-quality renewable crude oil, confirming our design specs,” Cannon said.

The company is confident it will start commercial shipments from the Columbus facility later this month, Cannon said.

“In fact, we had our first small-scale sale of cellulostic fuel from our demonstration facility in Houston, which will ensure that KiOR fuel will be used on the U.S. roads any day now,” he said.

The company has previously projected it will create approximately 320 permanent direct and indirect jobs and 400 construction jobs with the Natchez project.

The timeline released by KiOR earlier this year slates for hiring at the plant to start in the final quarter of 2013 with full-time employment beginning in the third quarter of 2014.