Has deal to buy defunct INEOS plant collapsed?

Last July, it looked like Indian River County was finally going to be free of problems related to the defunct INEOS biofuel plant, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved West Palm-based Alliance BioEnergy’s offer to buy the monumentally unsuccessful, now-shuttered ethanol operation.

The $8 million deal was supposed to close in a couple of months – but now, well into November, the deal has not been sealed and, of late, Alliance CEO Daniel de Liege has not been responding to inquiries.

Vero Beach 32963 has attempted to contact de Liege several times, asking about the delay, without getting a response. Last week Commissioner Tim Zorc emailed de Liege, relaying Vero Beach 32963’s request for current information, and did not get a reply.

Alliance’s radio silence is eerily reminiscent of the stonewalling that occurred in the months leading up to the INEOS closure, when that company stopped responding to questions from the press and county officials.

In August, de Liege told the County Commission that finally, after months of delays and much longer negotiations than he ever expected with the bank and the broker of the property, he was prepared to begin implementation of his eco-fuel production plans. He said he would be rehiring former INEOS technical personnel, whose experience at the plant would be valuable to the new operation.

Because Alliance uses a different process than the one INEOS tried, the company and the Agriculture Department believed it would be able to succeed where INEOS failed, converting yard waste to commercially viable ethanol.

According to Biofuel Digest, Alliance plans to renovate the plant and use a patented cellulose-to-sugar process to produce bio fuels for less than $1 per gallon, with fewer greenhouse gases than petroleum-based products, creating 100 well-paying jobs in the county.

The prospect of those jobs, and of a cheaper way to get rid of tons of yard waste – which Alliance needs to operate – induced the county commission in August to extend a yard-waste agreement option with the company, giving it another 90 days to begin operations – an extension that is about to run out.

Meanwhile, as all parties play a reluctant waiting game, the daily loads of palm fronds, grass clippings and hedge trimmings keep arriving at the county landfill, where they are piled near existing mountains of decaying plant matter in which useful energy absorbed from the sun lies dormant.

Besides the normal massive flow of yard waste, the county is also dealing with more than 100,000 cubic yards of Irma-related plant debris.

So much waste is piling up that the county has obtained permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to open two auxiliary sites – off Oslo Road near the landfill, and off 58th Avenue near Hobart Park – to hold the post-storm windfall.

If and when the Alliance deal goes through, that company will be in hog heaven when it comes to fuel stock for its green-to-clean-energy process.  But nobody’s counting those chickens just yet.

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