COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- It’s been nearly a month since Kior announced cost-cutting moves that have temporarily idled production at its $225 million Columbus facility. Some have speculated the plant will never crank back up, costing local and state taxpayers.
Despite stopping production to cut costs, Kior President Fred Cannon paints an optimistic picture of a pioneering company that is trying to do in hours what Mother Nature does in a million years, turn wood products into oil.
” We have the plant down now and we’re doing some turn around work and some retrofit. We’re just doing normal maintenance and fixing some things that we’ve learned over the last year and we’ll be coming up early in the 2nd quarter and making more fuel,” said Cannon.
Cannon told Columbus Rotarians that even though they’re currently not producing biofuel, they don’t expect any layoffs or cut in pay for the plant’s 100 workers.
“No. Not at all. Our local payroll for our direct Kior employees and contractors that are there everyday has been over $20 million local payroll so far, $2 million local property taxes, so you know, real stimulus about several million dollars worth of feed stock from local timber owners,” said Cannon.
Right now, Kior’s trying to raise $10 million for upgrades to the existing plant and another $22 million for research that will improve the process and make it profitable without federal alternative fuel tax credits. They’re also making plans for a $200 million second plant in Columbus.
We’re trying to raise this as well as the funding for the Columbus 2 project or our next project and we’re financing that now and it’s going well. We don’t have the money today, but there’s always fundraising,” said Cannon.
The plant is the first of its kind, turning wood products into gasoline, diesel and fuel oil.
” We’ve shipped 90 truckloads of fuel out of the plant so far, so that fuel is in cars, in this area, in Mississippi, in Alabama and other areas,” said Cannon.
But, the Greenfuels industry is coming under fire. Recently, a 60 minutes report examined Kior and other alternative fuel industries for the billions of dollars spent with very little outcome. Cannon says despite the criticism, he believes Kior’s stepping in the right direction.
” You can just look at any media and there’s critics and supporters so it’s all about making fuel to me. It’s about innovation, it gives us cleaner fuel,” said Cannon.
Kior says its long-range plans still include developing a commercial facility in Natchez.