Natchez biofuels plant ‘ceases production’

Published 12:18 am Saturday, August 17, 2019


NATCHEZ — A low-carbon fuel supplier announced Friday that three of its facilities would be shut down temporarily, including one in Natchez located at 151 L.E. Barry Road.

World Energy — a biofuel supplier with facilities located across North America — issued a statement Friday that said its Natchez facility as well as facilities in Rome, Georgia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, would “immediately cease production and furlough employees.”

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“World Energy will maintain essential staffing at these facilities to support maintenance and safety operations to keep the plants in a warm shutdown mode pending improved market conditions,” the statement said.

Karen Regan, communications director for World Energy, said 29 people were employed at the Natchez facility, adding only eight of those employees would remain working during the shutdown.

The closure is directly tied to an Aug. 9 decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to grant 31 small refinery waivers for economic relief, the statement said.

Waivers are granted to U.S. oil refineries that claim economic hardship, releasing them from their obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard — created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 — to blend biofuels such as ethanol into their gasoline.

Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc., said on top of the decrease in demand for biofuels caused by the waivers, biofuel blenders in the past have had federal tax credits issued to them for every gallon of fuel blended.

However, those tax policies have not been extended for the last 20 months, resulting in billions of dollars lost to biofuel plants, Russ said.

“We anticipate the plant reopening,” Russ said. “… These are federal tax policies and regulations placing a burden on the facility. … Conditions being where they are, it’s hard for them to compete in that space. It’s a temporary closure until the business environment improves.”

This fall, EPA will further address policies that will impact future operations of the facilities closed as well as many other low-carbon fuel manufacturers industry-wide, the statement said, including how much biofuel is required to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply in 2020.

Furthermore, Congress is expected to decide whether future tax credits are extended in support of biodiesel blending, the statement said.

Regan said the decision would hopefully result in the reinstatement of 21 employees in Natchez.

“We hope to have those employees back,” Regan said. “If these government policies turn in our favor, we want to have this plant back open and operational and bring our people back. That is our endgame.”