Renewafuel biomass cube production plant could shut down

By Lisa Gibson | September 27, 2011

After just a few months of production, Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.’s biomass cube production facility in Michigan could close its doors, a result of the plant’s performance not reaching design capacity and expected production levels.

Cliffs’ board of directors is contemplating idling and selling the plant, with an expected financial impact of about $30 million, according to the company. The plant, operated by Cliffs’ subsidiary Renewafuel LLC, is in the Telkite Technology Park near Sawyer International Airport in Marquette, Mich., and just began production in the first half of this year. The plant delivered its first commercial supply of biofuel cubes, made from locally sourced wood and agricultural feedstocks, to the Marquette Board of Light and Power in July, according to Cliffs.

“Over recent years, Cliffs executed a strategy focused on expanding its portfolio of steelmaking raw material assets,” said David Blake, senior vice president of Cliffs. “Cliffs continues to successfully grow its core iron mining business with a number of expansion projects underway. With this, it is essential that our management focus on allocation of capital resources be deployed where we can have the most impact for all stakeholders.”

The plant employs 30 workers and Cliffs hopes to reassign them where possible to other positions within the company.

“While we believe the Renewafuel business model remains viable, the business is likely to have better prospects with a company more experienced in the area of biofuels that can develop Renewafuel to its full potential,” Blake said.


4 Responses

  1. Tony Winig



    In future, if disclosed to BP&T please include what the design capacity / expected production levels were and directly compare them with ACTUAL performance. Strange - most businesses at least try to make a go of it. Appears the technology is "not ready for prime time" if the hardware won't produce. More likely the businessmen were gambling with money they really couldn't afford to. There is a lot of engineering and operations / maintenance talent "left over" from the power and process industries going to waste in these tough times - myself included. If the money people would only hire those that understand equipment and process instead of listening to those that know nothing of running a "plant" then I think biofuels, biotech, bio-ANYTHING would have a better chance. If 'green' types and non-technical people keep trying to re-invent the laws of thermodynamics and ignore 75 years of experience in making hardware work and designing it to do better they will pay a heavy price in reputation before they ever make a megawatt. It seems these are the same geniuses that would shut down one million megawatts of coal-fired US electric generation without a clear plan as to what to replace it with. Cowfarts and windmills ain't gonna do it, boys and girls. My two cents worth / TW New Lebanon, NY 30SEP11

  2. Charles Scouten



    I empathize with Mr. Winig, and agree with much of what he writes. However, as one who suffers from asthma, while recovering from lung cancer, I want clarity when it comes to 'green' types shutting down coal-fired power plants. 'Green' types do NOT shut down power plants. Business types shut down power plants rather than clean up emissions. Get this straight folks - dirty air kills people and makes life miserable for others. Critics should take a look at the PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulates), mercury, uranium and other nasty species in the flue gas from our old, dirty coal-fired power plants. Then tell the rest of us that is what you think OUR children and grandchildren should be breathing as they grow up. Shutting down coal-fired power plants has a lot less to do with thermodynamics than it does to greed and lobbying money. The solution is to clean up or build new - not to immediately quit using coal. Were executives of the elecric power industry to stop pouring money down the lobbying rathole and start investing in clean power we need they would create good jobs, improve quality of life for millions of US citizens - and they just might earn a bit of respect in the process.

  3. Chumroen Benchavitvilai



    what would be the cost for all the machines and equipments to move the complete plant to Asia. We are having substantial feedstock for the biomass wood pelelt production in Thailand.

  4. buck hunter



    Didn't take them long to realize they were barking up the wrong tree.


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