Investigation: INEOS Failed Despite $129 Million in Taxpayer Subsidies
by Lucas Daprile (TC Palm) TCPalm examined thousands of government documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and Florida public records requests, to determine what taxpayers got in return for their $129 million investment in INEOS’ Indian River County biofuel plant that closed Jan. 2.
Global chemical giant INEOS promised America nothing short of an energy revolution.
Its plan: Use existing technology to turn palm fronds and yard clippings into ethanol that can be mixed with gasoline to fuel cars. It would start small, producing 8 million gallons a year at a former Ocean Spray processing plant in Indian River County — just to prove its process could be profitable on a commercial scale. Then it would open five to 10 more plants, mostly in the nation’s Southeast and West Coast, to produce up to 500 million gallons a year. Then it would open 30 more commercial-scale production plants across the country to produce 1 billion gallons a year.
Eight years later, INEOS New Planet BioEnergy LLC closed the plant — no closer to even its first goal and with little to show for $129 million in grants, tax breaks and guaranteed loans.
INEOS purchased its technology in 2008 from Bioengineering Resources Inc., which — aided by $4.8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy — had been producing biofuel in its Arkansas plant for 15 years. Production was on a smaller scale than what INEOS proposed, and it used primarily wood chips.
INEOS told Florida its goal was to develop ways to ferment everything from carpet to used tires into eco-friendly biofuel, according to its 2008 state grant application.
A 2016 scientific report from the U.S. Department of Energy specified several problems:
- The Florida wood contained more moisture than engineers had predicted and the excess water was diluting the “syngas,” a key intermediate chemical used to obtain ethanol.
- INEOS stopped operations in 2014 to install “scrubbers” to remove hydrogen cyanide, which was killing bacteria necessary to fermentation.
- Other delays were caused by various equipment and power failures and “unknown scale-up issues in main fermenter due to limited run time.”
The county’s formal review in 2014 concluded INEOS met the requirements for its tax incentives.
Beyond that, about the only benefits realized were a renovated plant, some construction jobs, temporary plant jobs and a slightly cheaper rate for Martin and Indian River counties to dispose of their vegetative waste. READ MORE / MORE / MORE
Excerpt from TC Palm: A West Palm Beach biofuel company wants to buy the failed INEOS plant, but only if the county’s yard-waste contract comes with the deal.
Alliance BioEnergy could move in by the summer with a new, patented process creating biofuel and returning hundreds of jobs to Indian River, said company president Daniel de Liege. READ MORE