° empty

KiOR continues Natchez investment

NATCHEZ — KiOR had $4.8 million in capital investments in the first quarter of 2013, most of which company officials said was related to engineering and design of the company’s Adams County project.

Company officials spoke about progress at their Columbus facility and their future plans for a similar but larger facility in Natchez during KiOR’s quarterly investors’ call Thursday.

KiOR’s Chief Financial Officer John Karnes said the company is now in the process of completing the front-end design and engineering for the Natchez facility, an alternative fuels plant to be located on the site of the former Belwood country club that is expected to create 320 direct and indirect jobs.

Karnes said he believes the company will have a $460 million budget for the Natchez project.

“We’re working through site-specific adjustments that may be required at Natchez,” he said. “(The firm) who also did the Columbus plant (is) doing the front-end engineering and design. So we’re a number of months away from having that key process done and actually having an estimate assumption at the plant.”

KiOR’s Chief Executive Officer Fred Cannon said that the Columbus facility is moving toward being in a state of steady operation.

“More significantly, our core technology is continuing to operate as designed, and the facility is producing high-quality oil and cellulostic fuel,” he said.

The Columbus facility sent out its first shipments of fuel produced there in the first quarter, and Cannon said that as the Columbus facility’s operations expand, the company is taking what it learns there as it plans for Natchez.

“All our learnings will certainly be incorporated into the Natchez design,” he said. “And, of course, we designed Columbus a long time ago, two to three years ago. So now, all that learning plus the learnings we’ve had in our demonstration pilot units have gone into Natchez — but you always learn.”

The company had revenue of $71,000 during the first quarter, $52,000 of which was related to the sale of blended diesel fuel containing the cellulostic product from the company’s research and development facility. The remainder of the revenues was from the commercial production facility at Columbus.

The company had cash or cash equivalents of $11.1 million at the end of the quarter, a $29.8 million decrease from its fourth quarter 2012 balance. The company said operating uses of cash and capital expenditures related to the Natchez facility drove the decrease in cash.