BP pulls plug on planned biofuels plant in Highlands County after four stalled years

Published Oct. 25, 2012

Energy giant BP said Thursday it canceled plans to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Highlands County four years after first unveiling the Central Florida biofuels project. The decision means BP — infamously known best in Florida for 2010's massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — is ending its U.S. pursuit of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production. Instead, BP said it will refocus its U.S. biofuels strategy on research and development, as well as licensing its biofuels technology.

Why cancel the Brighton project in Highlands County? BP saw better use of its money elsewhere.

"Given the large and growing portfolio of investment opportunities available to BP globally, we believe it is in the best interest of our shareholders to redeploy the considerable capital required to build this facility into other more attractive projects," Geoff Morrell, BP vice president of communications, said in a statement.

In 2008, BP's original plan to build the Florida facility called for turning thousands of acres of energy crops into 36 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. The British company continues to pursue ethanol production via plants in England and Brazil.

The cancellation apparently caught Highlands County officials off guard. Earlier in October, it was reported that local government officials saw signs that the stalled ethanol project was about to begin. BP had filed plans and started construction on its offices in nearby Lake Placid while road work had begun on a turn lane into the Brighton plant property.