Natchez’s gain loss for others

Published 12:01 am Friday, December 7, 2007

NATCHEZ — Good news in Natchez meant bad news in East Dubuque, Ill., earlier this week.

Rentech announced that it would no longer pursue development of a plant in Dubuque and instead would focus solely on Natchez.

Mayor of East Dubuque Geoff Barklow said he only found out about the switch on Tuesday, the same day Rentech made its press releases.

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“We never guessed in a million years they would switch directions like this,” he said.

While Barklow was surprised by Rentech’s change of heart, East Dubuque won’t actually be losing anything, Rentech officials said.

Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Rentech Tom Sayles said the East Dubuque plant will still continue to manufacture ammonia for fertilizer.

Sayles also said Rentech has no plans to revisit the East Dubuque site for other chemical manufacturing.

Barklow said none of this information is very comforting.

“We were planning for the jobs that would have come to the area,” he said. “They will be sorely missed.”

Rentech’s original plan called for the Dubuque plant to be converted to produce various chemicals and synthetic fuels.

However the cost to convert the plant combined with future legislation regulating carbon dioxide emissions swayed Rentech’s decision to follow through on development.

Conversion of the East Dubuque plant came with a price tag of approximately $900 million.

To get the Natchez plant operational would cost closer to $450 million for phase 1.

That would bring the total cost of the Natchez project to approximately $4.5 billion.

Rentech’s Project Manager Joe Regnery said along with the savings of hundreds of millions of dollars, both facilities would have had close to the same initial output in terms of barrels of products per day.

Regnery said phase 1 production for both plants would be between 1,500 and 1,600 barrels per day.

Rentech officials also said future legislation against carbon dioxide emissions played a role in their decision to drop the Dubuque project.

Rentech’s production process also generates vast amounts of carbon dioxide.

Dubuque has no plan or infrastructure to deal with the carbon dioxide.

In Natchez, Rentech has an agreement with Denbury Resources, an oil recovery company that operates on carbon dioxide.

Denbury, on U.S. 84, eliminates Rentech’s carbon dioxide emission concerns.

Rentech’s stock prices are nearing their all-time low but officials with the company would not comment on the cause.

On Nov. 6, their stock was at $2.04, on Dec. 6, it closed at $1.85.

Over the last year the price has fluctuated from $4.03 to $1.72.