While some advanced biofuel projects have struggled to reach construction goals, construction of KiOR Inc.’s first commercial-scale plant has proceeded ahead of schedule. In late May, the company announced that its Columbus, Miss.-based plant is 100 percent mechanically complete.
The announcement was delivered as part of the company’s first quarter 2012 financials. Under the original construction schedule, the plant would have been 90 percent mechanically complete at that time.
“Earlier this year I challenged [KBR Inc.] and our construction management team to find ways to accelerate our construction within our defined budget,” says Fred Cannon, KiOR president and CEO. “As they have at every turn throughout this history-making project, the Columbus team delivered beyond my expectations in a safe, environmentally conscious and effective manner. I am pleased to report that Columbus is 100 percent mechanically complete and we have commenced our commissioning plan.”
Despite the accelerated construction schedule, Cannon says that the project also appears to be coming in slightly below the anticipated $222 million budget. “All of us here at KiOR are understandably proud not only to have delivered what we promised, but to have exceeded even our own internal expectations.” Although some speculated that it would take two years to complete the project, the Columbus plant took only 13 months to build.
According to Cannon, commissioning and startup activities are expected to take between 12 and 16 weeks. He also notes that considering this is a first-of-kind commercial plant, it is possible the schedule could be delayed. However, Cannon stresses that he fully expects the new plant to be producing cellulosic biofuels during the second half of 2012, with full capacity reached within six to 12 months. Once that level of production is reached, Cannon says that KiOR will focus its efforts on optimizing the production process to maximize yields, initially targeting 67 gallons per ton sometime in 2013.