Wednesday, July 20, 2011

USDA struggles to finance next-gen biofuels

 The Obama administration’s effort to develop next-generation biofuels that will replace corn ethanol is still very much a work in progress. That’s evident from a summary provided to the House Agriculture Committee of a loan guarantee program authorized by the 2008 farm bill.

The USDA’s flagship project, the Range Fuels wood-to-ethanol plant in Georgia, ran into trouble almost immediately. Another project has been de-obligated because the lender no longer qualifies. Here is the summary of the projects:

-Range Fuels, Inc. (cellulosic ethanol) – $80 million guaranteed loan approved 1/16/09. Loan closed on 2/10/10. On January 3, 2011, Range Fuels failed to make the scheduled payment for principal and interest on the bonds. Range Fuels is current on deferred principal/interest only payments and working to find additional partners with capabilities of financial support. The Agency is reviewing a plan from the Lender outlining the potential transfer/sale.

-SoyMor Biodiesel, LLC (waste corn oil/distillers syrup from ethanol) - $25 million application approved on 6/10/09. On September 1, 2010, RD received letter from (American Bank) stating the lender no longer qualifies as an eligible lender, having fallen below the minimum acceptable levels of capital. SoyMor was unable to obtain a new lender. The $25 million was de-obligated.

-Sapphire Energy (algae to advanced aviation fuel) – $54.5 million guaranteed loan approved 12/03/2009. Agency continues to work with lender to close the loan..

-Freemont Community Digester (anaerobic digester/will process community waste, mostly food and beverage; has a contractual arrangement to sell waste CO2) -- $12.75 million loan guarantee approved 10/15/2010. Loan closed; Agency issued a loan note guarantee on Tuesday.

-Enerkem Corp. (Cellulosic Ethanol) – $80 million guaranteed loan approved 1/4/2011.

-INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, LLC (Cellulosic Ethanol) – $75 million guaranteed loan approved 1/4/2011. Agency continues to work with Lender to close the loan.

-Coskata, Inc. (Cellulosic Ethanol) – $87.85 million guaranteed loan approved 6/3/2011. Agency continues to work with Lender to close the loan. 

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