Next Renewables buys stalled southern Oregon biofuels refinery

The project was put up for auction after work stopped.

Next Renewables buys stalled southern Oregon biofuels refinery

Next Renewables Inc. said that it had acquired an unfinished biorefinery in Lake County, Texas, after running into financial difficulties.

After three previous auctions had been canceled over the past two month, the purchase of Red Rock Biofuel Refinery was made at an auction held on Friday in Lakeview.

Next's subsidiary Lakeview RNG "took immediate ownership" of the clean fuels production facility. Next will continue to evaluate future options for clean fuel production.

According to records of the state, Christopher Efird was the CEO of Next Renewables when he incorporated Lakeview RNG on January 19. This was about one month after an advertisement of the sale of Red Rock was published.

Efird stated in a press release that the acquisition of the Lake County Clean Fuels Facility is another step in the mission to decarbonize transportation and accelerate the shift to a sustainable future. This acquisition will allow us to expand our clean fuel production options in order to meet the growing demand along the West Coast of North America.

The southern Oregon Biofuels Refinery Project, which failed due to a loan of nearly $300 million, aimed to use forest wastes to make renewable jet-fuel -- sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), as it is known in the industry -- and diesel fuels, that can directly substitute conventional fuels.

In 2014, the project received a construction grant of $70 million from the U.S. Department of Defense. This followed a $4.1 grant for engineering in 2013. It ran into construction and financial issues as well as the Covid fallout that caused delays. The facility's readiness for production is still unclear. However, Next has described it as "nearly ready for market deployment."

In a December notice of sale, Red Rock Biofuel LLC was cited for failing to pay on privately owned Economic Development Revenue Bonds issued from the state of Oregon. The principal of the loan was slightly more than $299 million, and interest up to Sept. 20 totaled $55.9 millions.

Next Renewables was in the Oregon news for its efforts to build an industrial park on the Columbia River near Clatskanie to produce sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel.

The project has been opposed by environmental groups and some local farmers. They claim that it is a threat to air and water.

Renewable fuels, however, are an important part of Oregon's strategy to decarbonize, as they are encouraged by the Clean Fuels Program (CFP) and the Climate Protection Program. Next has positioned the Port Westward Refinery as a source of clean fuels produced locally and jobs in the green industry.

Last year, the company received an air quality permit. It is still working to obtain a permit for water quality. The company suffered a setback when a permit to build a railyard for the refinery's use was revoked. However, the company insisted that the project would not be harmed by this.

The Columbia County biorefinery, which is larger than Red Rock, would use different feedstocks and processes, including animal tallow, vegetable oils, and greases. United Airlines announced in November that it would invest up to $37.5m in Next, based on the company achieving unspecified milestones.