KiOR completes construction of Miss. cellulosic biofuel plant

By Erin Voegele | May 22, 2012

KiOR Inc. has announced that its first commercial-scale plant is now 100 percent mechanically complete, an achievement reached ahead of schedule. KiOR President and CEO Fred Cannon made the announcement as part of the company’s release of its first quarter 2012 financials. The plant is located in Columbus, Miss., and is designed to process 500 bone dry tons of feedstock daily into cellulosic biofuels.

According to Cannon, the original construction schedule aimed to have the plant reach 90 percent completion by the time of Q1 2012 release. “However, earlier this year I challenged [KBR Inc.] and our construction management team to find ways to accelerate our construction within our defined budget,” he said. “As they have at every turn throughout this history-making project, the Columbus team delivered beyond my expectations in a safe, environmentally conscious and effective manner. And so I am pleased to report that Columbus is 100 percent mechanically complete and we have commenced our commissioning plan.”

Despite the accelerated construction schedule, Cannon noted that the project also appears to be coming in slightly below the anticipated $222 million budget. “All of us here at KiOR are understandably proud not only of to have delivered what we promised, but to have exceeded even our own internal expectations.” Although some speculated that it would take two years to complete the project, the Columbus plant took only 13 months to build.

According to Cannon, commissioning and startup activities are expected to take between 12 and 16 weeks. However, he also noted that since this is a first-of-a-kind commercial plant, it is possible that schedule could be delayed. That said, he stressed he fully expects the new plant to be producing cellulosic biofuels during the second half of 2012, with full capacity reached within six to 12 months. “Once we reach that level, we plan to focus our efforts on optimizing our process in order to maximize our yields, initially targeting 67 gallons per ton sometime in 2013. KiOR is also developing a second facility in Natchez, Miss., which is expected to begin operations mid- to late 2014.

Cannon also provided an update of KiOR’s progress of registering with U.S. EPA for its cellulosic diesel and gasoline fuels under RFS2. “We believe our cellulosic gasoline registration is eminent,” he said, adding that the cellulosic diesel application was submitted to EPA approximately 2 months ago and is anticipated to be certified in the near future.

Regarding first quarter financial results, KiOR reported a net loss of $16.8 million, compared to a $14.9 net loss for the previous quarter. The report also shows that the company did not recognize revenue during 2012 due to the fact that its activities were focused on construction of the Columbus facility, yield improvement activities and financing for its expansion plant.