Power off at Opp biofuel plant

Published 8:08 pm Thursday, September 11, 2008

Activity at Perihelion’s Opp biodiesel facility has not only slowed to a crawl; it stopped when power was turned off at the site for non-payment, and Opp city officials are beginning to weigh their options after local merchants put liens on the property.

Wesley Laird, attorney for the city of Opp, said that the city has taken a “wait and see” approach to the delicate situation with Perihelion Global.

“The agreement has been turned over to (Laird, Baker and Blackstock LLC)

for handling,” Laird said. “We would love to see them fulfill their agreement and capitalize on the $20 million investment and 100 plus jobs. However, there appears to be no activity on the site.”

Minimal activity has been observed at Perihelion’s Opp plant, located just off the U.S. Highway 331 south bypass.

“We have turned the utilities off due to lack of payment,” he said. “We have received reports of two liens placed on the property by local merchants due to unpaid bills. One of the liens was around $18,000.

“Obviously all of this causes us a lot of concern,” he added. “We were approached by Perihelion in July of this year about selling them a small parcel of land for the site to operate on a much smaller scale. I requested some information at that time in writing regarding the number of employees, projected operating capacity and such. I have, to date, not received a reply.”

Laird’s request was made at about the same time as Perihelion’s announcement of a “corporate restructure” that reportedly occurred in June.

Perihelion’s Web site states that on July 18, 2008, Perihelion Global Inc. provided an update on the corporate restructure that was effective June 17. The company announced that due to the current market conditions and challenges caused by natural disasters affecting parts of the U.S., several shareholders of record (shareholders who hold physical certificates) had expressed that they would have difficulty exchanging their share certificates by a previously announced July 18, 2008, mandatory surrender deadline.

In an agreement between Perihelion Global and the city of Opp, signed Feb. 13, 2007, the city leased 53.7 acres to the company for quarterly payments of $2,685.

According to WSFA Channel 12, company attorney Julian McPhillips said Perihelion is in final negotiations with the IRS on how much money it will have to pay in federal excise taxes on motor fuel. It is apparently a complicated process because the business of producing biofuels is still relatively new. McPhillips says once both sides complete their negotiations the IRS is expected to issue the company its tax certification.

“This is a multi-layered process of approvals, the excise tax approvals and regulations. A lot of people have to sign off on it,” McPhillips said during an interview with WSFA on Fri., Sept. 5. “If we do not receive a reply, then we will begin weighing our options.”

Things seemed to be looking up for Perihelion’s Opp plant after an announcement on June 2 that their biodiesel product had met the latest specifications required for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registration and was now certified as fuel-grade biodiesel.

Lamar Lindsey, Opp plant manager, said at the time the refinery was operating at a capacity to produce approximately 3 million gallons of biodiesel per year and plans to eventually produce more than 60 million gallons of fuel per year.

He said the company was using animal fat for its process in June and planned to incorprate peanut oil into its next phase of production.

Activity has since slowed to a stop and reports from Perihelion indicate problems with obtaining approval from the IRS to continue production of its biodiesel product.

John Beebe, CEO of Perihelion Global, told WSFA News during an interview in early September that he plans to be in business within 60 to 90 days. He also stated that jobs will pay between $10 and $20 per hour, but due to a “slowing economy and the constant regulatory changes in the industry” he will not be able to provide the number of jobs stated in his initial agreement with the city.