The move marks the end of a long struggle for Seattle-based Imperium, which was founded in 2004 amid a rapid run-up in fossil fuel prices and mounting concerns about global warming.
An Iowa biofuel producer has agreed to buy nearly all the assets of Imperium Renewables, the operator of a Grays Harbor biodiesel plant once hailed as the largest in the U.S.
Renewable Energy Group, now the country’s largest biodiesel producer, will pay Imperium about $32 million in cash and stock.
The deal also includes a 5-cents-per-gallon payment for biodiesel from Imperium’s facility that is sold for two years after the acquisition.
That could total $10 million if the plant operates at its full capacity of 100 million gallons a year.
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Imperium also will keep $25 million in working capital, and the acquirer will take on $5.2 million of Imperium’s debt to Umpqua Bank.
A spokesman for Imperium declined to elaborate on the deal.
The move marks the end of a long struggle for Seattle-based Imperium, which was founded in 2004 amid a rapid run-up in fossil-fuel prices, mounting concerns about global warming and investor enthusiasm for green projects.
Imperium, which now has 45 employees, raised more than $155 million from venture capitalists, private equity investors and hedge funds.
In 2007 it opened a huge, $80 million plant in Hoquiam, a coastal town hard hit by the timber industry’s decline.
The site was chosen because it had easy rail and truck access to bring in the vegetable matter that was transformed into fuel, and a port suitable for deep-water vessels to carry biodiesel to West Coast markets.
But the financial crisis that exploded that year temporarily buffeted energy prices, making expensive biodiesel not competitive with its fossil-fuel equivalent and dealing a hard blow to the company. In early 2008, it dropped a proposed $345 million public stock offering.
In the tepid recovery that followed the crisis, enthusiasm for biofuels was crowded out by a frenzy of domestic oil production in areas like North Dakota and Texas, which generated tens of thousands of jobs.
A weakened Imperium sought to jump on that bandwagon too, proposing to build storage tanks and a new terminal to ship out petroleum products produced in the U.S. mid-continent and transported to its Pacific Coast portal via rail.
But that effort has stalled, and the company has been quiet for a long time. It didn’t announce the sale of its assets on its website.
Imperium founder John Plaza said in a statement that the company was successful in its goal to create a sustainable business that helped reduce “humanity’s effects on climate change.”
“We built one of the largest biodiesel facilities in the world from scratch, developed industry leading technology with a strong focus on quality, achieved significant financial success with our sales and production efforts, and most important to me, the biodiesel we have produced has reduced over 4 billion pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when compared to traditional petroleum fuels,” he said.
Imperium’s Hoquiam facility will be renamed REG Grays Harbor. REG Chief Executive Daniel Oh said in a statement that the company will work with Imperium’s “experienced staff and plant employees.”