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Elevance overseas success good sign for Natchez

NATCHEZ — Officials with Elevance Renewable Sciences announced Thursday that the company had successfully started operations in an overseas facility that is meant to be a forerunner of the company’s Natchez project.

The facility — a joint-venture biorefinery based in Gresik, Indonesia — has also begun commercial shipping of the company’s products.

Elevance’s Executive Vice President Andy Shafer said the company’s plan has always been to open the Natchez facility following a successful startup of operations in Indonesia.

Elevance committed to bring 165 permanent jobs to Adams County when it purchased the Delta Biofuels plant in the Natchez-Adams County Port in 2011. As the project progresses, the biodiesel facility will be converted to a biorefinery, and Elevance’s products will be used in such items as personal care products, cleaners, lubricants and high performance polymer plastics.

Natchez Inc. President Sue Stedman said she couldn’t be more pleased with the news and that Natchez Inc. will be standing by to do whatever is needed to assist the company in its Adams County project.

“We are looking forward to a tremendous relationship with them that will last for a long time,” she said. “We are very pleased to be chosen as the first announced site for an American facility.”

Shafer said the company’s Natchez delegation was heavily engaged in the construction, commissioning and startup of operations in Indonesia.

“They have done a really good job helping to make sure that plant is successfully and safely started up and began operations, and we are capturing the things that we have learned from their experiences over there and making sure we review our plans for Natchez and integrate any learning we have experienced over there into the Natchez plans as we proceed with them,” Shafer said. “It may have looked like there wasn’t much happening in Natchez, but they were making things happen.”

The company’s Indonesian plant is a joint venture with Wilmar International Limited, an Asian agribusiness.

“We use the same process for the biorefinery in Asia as we are designing for Natchez,” Shafer said. “The process will be the same but the feedstock that we have started up in Asia is palm oil and the feedstock we would expect to start in Natchez would be soybean or canola — those feedstocks are available around the world, but you pick the one that is closer.”

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the announcement was “the most tremendous milestone” for Natchez, and that he was excited for Elevance but also for Adams County.

“I want to express congratulations to both the Elevance team and to the Natchez Elevance team, because they were a big contributors to getting things worked out and complete in Indonesia,” he said. “Their technology works and they are truly looking forward to being a worldwide leader for specialty chemicals in that market.”

In June 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Elevance the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its work developing high-performing, green specialty chemicals at beneficial costs.