RICHLAND, Wash. – An eastern Oregon biofuel plant has announced it’s laying off workers. The news comes three weeks after it began producing ethanol.
ZeaChem started making biofuel earlier this month at its demonstration plant in Boardman, Ore. The plant turns sawdust into cellulosic ethanol. The Obama administration favors this type of biofuel because it’s plant-based but doesn’t use food products.
ZeaChem had already secured more than grants from the federal government, including:
A $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy;
A $232.5 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
And part of a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help commercialize biofuel. This grant was led by the University of Washington.
But ZeaChem needed short-term financing to operate before that federal money kicked in.
The Colorado-based company wasn’t able to line up a short-term loan. In a statement, ZeaChem said that forced it to scale back its operations. But the company says it is hopeful it can raise enough money to restart production.
The company also raised $19 million dollars from private investors last October.
ZeaChem has plans to expand to a commercial biofuel plant that could produce 25 million gallons of ethanol.