Tampa's Lykes Brothers, partner in Highlands County biofuel plant just killed by BP, takes a hit
Wake up and good morning. BP's decision after four long years to end a planned biofuels plant in Highlands County (read Tampa Bay Times coverage here) will send plenty of ripples across this rural part of central Florida. (Photo, left: Harvesting energy grass in Highlands County). For starters:
1. BP's not only killing the local plant but is ending its entire cellulosic/ethanol plans in the United States. It does have other ethanol operations in England and Brazil. What's happening to the alternative energy business in the United States that's scaring B P away?
2. Highlands County, already struggling with a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, just saw one of its more promising projects get vaporized by BP. The $250-$300 million plant was supposed to employ up to 600 million while under construction and 200 during operations. What message does BP's exit from this project send about other biofuel plans that might have used sugar cane or similar crops as a fuel to produce ethanol?
3. Lykes Brothers, based in Tampa, was a partner in the BP deal. It was expected to provide up to 400,000 tons of energy grasses and other material to fuel the plant. Lykes had 3,500 acres of energy grass under cultivation for BP. Read more about Lykes' holdings in Highlands County.
According to a Highlands Today story, BP and Verenium Biofuels originally announced plans to build this plant, to be called Vercipia, and use up to 20,000 acres to produce 36 million gallons of ethanol a year. BP later bought out Verenium's biofuels business (more here) and continued on its own. Read the story here.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times