Home » MBJ FEATURE » Natchez hopes 2011 the year Rentech gets off the ground

Natchez hopes 2011 the year Rentech gets off the ground

Since 2006, Rentech has promised to be the Nissan of the Natchez area, providing more than 2,000 jobs, if only they can get it started.

Rentech is actually the name of a California-based company that plans to build a clean fuel manufacturing plant in Mississippi. The facility would gasify coal and petroleum coke to produce fuel. The original price estimate of the plant was $1 billion, but a Rentech official told The Bond Buyer in 2007, that the total estimated project cost would be $3.5 billion.

When the project was announced years ago, Rentech was scheduled to break ground in 2007, and be operational by 2010 or 2011. They did purchase 450 acres of the former International Paper property in 2008.

In Jan. 2010, The Natchez Democrat reported that Rentech officials stopped by for a visit and said they would break ground in 2011.

In April 2010, Rentech made anther visit to Natchez to let city and county officials know the company had submitted an environmental permit application regarding water pollution to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The company said it would also be ready to submit its application regarding air pollution to MDEQ by June 2010.

“If everything lines up right, we’ll get the permits within a year time period, and still keep our mid-next year target for construction,” said Rentech director of project development Dennis Corn, in The Natchez Democrat.

Last week MDEQ told the Mississippi Business Journal that the agency has received only one application from Rentech and has not issued any permits.

“MDEQ received the NPDES water application on March 31, 2010. Although the application is complete, we have not drafted a permit nor do we intend to until the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Air application is submitted.  The PSD application has not been submitted to date, and we are not aware of when it may be submitted,” said Robbie Wilbur, MDEQ director of information.

No state money has been spent on Rentech

In 2006, the Mississippi Legislature approved a $15-million state funding initiative that could be used for Rentech site improvements.

A recent public records request to the Mississippi Development Authority, which usually handles such funding initiatives, showed that no Memorandum of Understanding exists for Rentech.

In 2007, the Mississippi Business Finance Corp. approved an “inducement resolution” for the sale of up to $2.75 billion in bonds to finance the facility, according to The Bond Buyer. It was estimated that many of those bonds would be issued under the GO Zone (Gulf Opportunities Zone) Act of 2005.

Last week Gov. Barbour’s office said that no bonds, GO Zone or otherwise, have been sold to help finance Rentech to date.

Recent Rentech successes

Last year Biofuels Digest named Rentech a top company of the year for advancement in the commercialization of renewable fuels.

In addition to the Natchez plant, the company has said it is developing a biomass-to-liquid fuels plant in Rialto, California.

Also in 2010, United Airlines used RenJet, Rentech’s certified synthetic jet fuel, to make the first U.S. commercial airline flight with synthetic jet fuel.

Rentech and ClearFuels Technology jointly received a $22 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to build a biomass gasifier at Rentech’s Energy Technology Center in Denver.

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