Less than a month after starting production of cellulosic biofuel at its Boardman demonstration plant, ZeaChem has laid off employees and scaled back operations. Biofuels Digest posted a statement from the company’s director of public affairs, Carrie Atiyeh, saying additional funds will be needed to re-start production:
“ZeaChem recently had to scale back plant operations in Boardman and let go a number of our valued employees because we were not able to secure a bridge-loan intended to carry ZeaChem into its next funding round. As a result of this unforeseen delay, we could not avoid scaling back our operations, which we intend to be a short-term event. We are having very productive conversations with investors and are quickly making progress in the right direction.
“After recent successful production of cellulosic ethanol – an achievement for which our great employees are to thank – there is no question as to ZeaChem’s value as a refiner and an investment. To that end, our main concern and top priority is to expedite additional capital investment in order to get our employees back to work, and continue to make progress toward commercialization and profitability.
“Operations have been temporarily minimized at the Boardman plant – it is not being sold. We have recently proven our technology end-to-end with our first cellulosic ethanol production and are confident about quickly raising additional funds and re-starting production.”
As I’ve reported in the past, cellulosic biofuel production in the U.S. is way behind federal targets. ZeaChem CEO Jim Imbler told me last month that the main obstacle to producing more cellulosic biofuel has been financing the production plants.
“We’re at the point now where it’s not just the technology it’s you’re ability to build it and finance it,” he said. “There’s a different set of skills needed right now. You can have a neat process, but if you can’t build it it doesn’t do any good.”
ZeaChem is using wood waste from the nearby Greenwood Resources tree farm to produce it’s biofuel with help from a microbe found in termites that breaks down woody material.
Its demonstration facility in Boardman can produce up to 250,000 gallons of biofuel. The commercial plant the company is planning would have a capacity of 25 million gallons. But ZeaChem needs even more financing before it can start building that plant.