March 6, 2011 in Business

New owner has big plans for former ethanol plant

 

BOISE — A Houston company that has assumed ownership of a former ethanol plant in southern Idaho intends to develop and diversify the site for production of natural gas, alternative fuels and a key product used in beverages and personal care products.

Natural Chem Holdings paid $2.4 million to acquire assets at the former Renova Energy Inc. plant in Heyburn. Renova spent $58 million to build the plant, but suspended construction in 2008 and filed for bankruptcy shortly after.

Natural Chem CEO Bob Salazar said his company wants to set up three separate businesses on the site. Salazar said part of the plan includes building a biogas plant that would pipe natural gas to western states.

The company has plans to sell wholesale ethanol and biodiesel fuel blends and build a facility that produces food and pharmaceutical grade glycerin.

“Renova plowed a lot of the ground and did a lot of work,” Salazar told the Idaho Business Review. “We’re going to be finishing their dream and making it better.”

The company would employ up to 65 people at all three units, and investments to bring all three units into production are estimated at $22 million, Salazar said.

Renova had intended to use biogas produced from an on-site digester — fed with byproducts from nearby cheese plants — to heat and power ethanol production. With no intention to produce ethanol, Natural Chem instead will spend $4 million on a purifying system to produce gas capable of meeting natural gas pipeline standards.

Salazar said the company is seeking permission from Intermountain Gas Co. to piggyback on to its pipeline in hopes of piping gas to states like California, Oregon and Washington.

The company intends to bolster the inventory of fuel tanks already on site as part of its plan to sell wholesale fuel blends.

A third facility would produce glycerin, which is used in food, beverage and personal care products.


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