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Pacific Ethanol closing 2 plants for now February 28, 2009

Filed under: Biofuels,Idaho,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 1:39 pm
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Corn-based fuel – The company seeks new terms from its lenders, but its Boardman site is still running “full out”

Pacific Ethanol said Friday that it is temporarily closing down its ethanol plants in Burley, Idaho, and Stockton, Calif., leaving only a partially owned plant in Colorado and its Boardman plant along the Columbia River to produce the corn-based fuel.

The Sacramento-based company, the West Coast’s largest ethanol producer, also suspended operations at its Madera, Calif., plant in January.

The down economy, lower prices for petroleum gasoline, and a tighter spread between ethanol and corn prices have all hit ethanol hard, though mandates for ethanol content in gasoline still help the industry.

In a news release, Pacific Ethanol said it is trying to negotiate new loan terms with its lenders. The lenders will “refrain from exercising their rights and remedies” through March 31, the release said.

The Boardman plant, opened in 2007, has a 40 million-gallon-a-year capacity. Rail cars carry the corn in from the east, and barges take the distilled fuel down the Columbia River to distributors in Portland.

Paul Koehler, a Pacific Ethanol spokesman, said the company is “operating Boardman full out.” Koehler said he couldn’t comment on whether an inability to negotiate new loan terms would affect the Boardman plant.

The company said it will continue serving its ethanol customers through production from Boardman and ethanol suppliers to Kinergy Marketing, Pacific Ethanol’s wholly owned marketing arm. Pacific Ethanol also owns a 42 percent interest in Front Range Energy, which owns an ethanol plant in Windsor, Colo.

The Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry group, said this week that 23 of 171 ethanol plants are currently idled, but 21 more are under construction.

SCOTT LEARN, The Oregonian


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