January 1, 2009 in Business

Biofuel plant finalizes first sale

Inland Empire facility processes seed, oil
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Inland Empire Oilseeds LLC has sold its first batch of refined biodiesel to a Portland distributor, General Manager Steve Starr said.

He said the Odessa plant began refining canola oil into biodiesel in November, then awaited certification of the fuel’s quality before proceeding with the 33,000-gallon sale.

The plant, which will soon include a crusher, will restart next week using another 35,000 gallons in canola-based oil already in storage, Starr said.

He said the plant can produce 8 million gallons of biodiesel annually using seed or seed oil from Washington and neighboring states. Until area growers plant more canola, a winter crop, the refinery will process oil shipped from elsewhere, he said, noting the plant is on the BNSF Railway main line.

Starr said the plant’s crusher will begin operations in June. The joint refinery-crusher, one of few in the country, will employ 19 at full capacity, he said.

The facility was built with the help of $4.2 million in bio-energy loans from the state Department of Agriculture. Area grower groups, private investors and Avista Corp. are the owners.

An Avista spokeswoman said the company bought a 1 percent stake in Oilseeds to support alternative fuels and economic growth in Odessa.

Bert Caldwell can be reached at (509) 459-5450 or bertc@spokesman.com.

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