Biodiesel start-up hauls in $214 million

Seattle-based company hopes to be producing 400 million gallons of alternative fuel a year by the end of 2008.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
Seattle-based biodiesel maker Imperium Renewables announced on Wednesday that its Series B financing round has roped in a total of $214 million, a possible record for the American biodiesel industry.

The investment comes from two sources: $113 million of private equity and $101 million from a senior secured credit facility that will be arranged by Societe Generale. According to a statement from Imperium, the funding is believed to be the United States' largest-ever private-equity investment in a biodiesel company.

Imperium plans to use the money invested for opening new biodiesel plants around the world, including in Hawaii and in northeastern states. Meanwhile, the company is continuing construction of its Port of Grays Harbor plant in coastal Washington; it expects to finish building the facility in July.

Cumulatively, the Grays Harbor plant and three other planned Imperium facilities are expected to optimally generate up to 400 million gallons (10 million barrels) of biodiesel per year by the end of 2008. The Washington plant alone will be capable of up to 100 million gallons per year, which will make it the largest biodiesel facility in the country.

Biodiesel, which is fuel created from vegetable oils--including, potentially, the residual fat and oil from fast-food restaurants--is a hot topic these days with all the talk of a need for renewable, clean-burning energy sources.

Currently, Imperium and subsidiary Seattle Biodiesel already operate refineries that produce biodiesel out of farm-grown crops like soy and palm oil.