A billion-dollar renewable diesel plant was proposed for Port Westward Tuesday afternoon in Clatskanie.
The plant, to be operated by NEXT Group Energy, Inc. would bring 200 permanent jobs to the area, with a median wage of $76,000, and an annual payroll of $16 million.
In a presentation before the Clatskanie Kiwanis, Waterside Energy Development CEO Lou Soumas, representing the developers of the plant, said that the plan is to have construction underway by summer of 2019 once it receives approval by the Port of St. Helens, with full operations underway in 2021.
The construction effort would require as many as 1,000 skilled laborers. Soumas said that “renewable diesel” is not biodiesel, but the next step in clean, renewable energy. “It uses products like cooking oils and vegetable oils as its source,” he said. “There are suppliers around the world who buy it from restaurants, villages in places such as India and other sources. They will deliver it by ship to the plant for refining.”
Once refined, the fuel product is identical to commercial diesel products. 90 percent of the 37,500 barrels per day of production would go to California. The remainder would be sold in Canada and around the Pacific Northwest. Soumas said that tankers ferrying gasoline to Portland from refineries would stop at Port Westward to pick up biodiesel for delivery on their way back out.
While the product itself is said to be environmentally friendly (reportedly cutting greenhouse gases by as much as 80 percent), Soumas’s presentation was more focused on the economic viability of the plant and the product, particularly in light of struggles over the years with biodiesel products finding wide success.
“This is a proven technology that is used around the world,” he told the group. “This would be the largest plant in the world. We will produce 600 million barrels annually versus about half that for the current largest refinery.”
Soumas also said the potential market for the renewable diesel is assured. “This plant is fully subscribed for its production capacity over the first few years. That means buyers are locked in to buying the product,” he said. “It will assure the plant is paid for rapidly in the first few years of operations.”
Once the Port Commission approves an agreement, Soumas says NEXT will select an exact site for the plant on the Port Westward Property. “Our product is liquid, so we can be up to a mile from the water and transport it through pipes,” he said. Production would be fast once the “on” switch in flipped in 2021.
“It will take 72 hours from start of production to first completed product,” Soumas said. With that quick start, NEXT plans to be fully staffed in 2020 for a year of intensive training, pinned to a hope of hiring locally. After the meeting, Soumas told a few gathered citizens that he had no interest in tax abatement. “We want to direct our property taxes to the community in which we operate and be sure they are not going elsewhere."
Soumas will make a formal presentation of the proposal at an upcoming Port of St. Helens meeting.