Weyburn’s ethanol plant back on the market, in receivership

Weyburn’s ethanol plant is back up for sale by court-appointed receivers, a decade after NorAmera BioEnergy heralded the opening of the plant as an important development in the province for the ethanol industry.
The plant was formerly a distillery, and then lay dormant for years until a Calgary company, Bellringer Resources, attempted to set up ethanol production at the plant. When they were unable to make a go of it, the City of Weyburn foreclosed on the property and took title, until they sold it to NorAmera in 2005.
In April of that year, then-minister of Industry and Resources, Eric Cline, paid a visit to Weyburn for an information meeting and toured the plant, which at that time was about 25-per-cent completed.
At the time, it cost the company $16 million to retrofit the distillery to ethanol production.
The Weyburn audience was told at the time the plant would employ 20 people and produce 25 million litres of ethanol with 24,000 tonnes of high-protein animal feed annually, using 2.5 million bushels or 67,000 tonnes of wheat.
The funding included a federal grant of $3.5 million, one of seven such plants funded across Canada as part of the federal ethanol plant expansion program.
In addition, financing was arranged through the Golden Opportunities Fund, Farm Credit Canada and Spectra Credit Union of Estevan.
For the provincial government’s part, they mandated the use of ethanol in gasoline with a content of two per cent on Oct. 1, 2005, increasing it to 7.5 per cent the following year.
Once production began, the volume eventually reached 25 million litres, and the staff grew to 25 people.
In 2008, the Weyburn Inland Terminal became a majority shareholder in NorAmera to help the ethanol plant continue to operate, and this passed to Parrish & Heimbecker when they bought WIT in 2014.
In more recent years, the odour from the ethanol plant’s production became an issue as residents complained to the City of Weyburn, and in turn Environment investigated the air quality.
When the price of oil began its decline, and the tax credits and incentives disappeared, the economics proved disastrous for NorAmera.
The provincial government had offered blenders 15 cents a litre as a tax credit, but this was eliminated in the 2015 budget, and the federal government phased out their 10 cents a litre incentive.
NorAmera stopped production of ethanol in May and laid off most of their staff. The firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers was appointed as the receivers for NorAmera BioEnergy and NorAmera Technologies on Nov. 19 by the Court of Queen’s Bench.
They have a target date of the end of January to have the company sold, including the ethanol plant facility, and the purchase will have to be approved by the court.

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