Biodiesel plant operation moves to Houston

HOUSTON – A biofuels refiner first interested in an Aberdeen site has moved the operation to Houston’s industrial park.
Mississippi Investment Petroleum Co. has preliminary work under way in Houston after it leased and took over the Tri-State Petroleum Products refinery, managed by state Sen. Jack Gordon of Okolona.
In the takeover, Tri-State’s initial operations permits have been transferred to MIPCO, according to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
Friday, plant operations manager Tommy Farrar said the facility will make biodiesel from poultry fat and vegetable oil.
He and plant manager Gary Bell were at the plant working through details to get the facility started. They deferred to MIPCO’s chief executive officer, Jon Lunsford of Georgia, when asked when the facility might begin operation.
But Lunsford, who reportedly has a critically ill relative, could not be reached for comment Friday about his plans for the Chickasaw County operation.
Gordon said the company’s lease arrangement on the facility and the permits is month to month, and the plant is expected to operate much the same as it did with Tri-State.
He also said MIPCO is close to start-up, especially since he believes it’s received IRS approval for a government incentive of $1 returned for every gallon produced.

On the right track
Gordon said Tri-States never really accomplished its goals but he thinks MIPCO “seems to be doing all the things right” to produce 30,000 gallons of fuel a week.
The real test will be if the company can truck in enough raw materials – chicken fat or cooking oil.
DEQ records show Tri-States’ air-construction and GP-baseline permits were transferred to MIPCO on Aug. 13. MIPCO also was granted a general permit for baseline administrative modification and for water-pretreatment the same day.
The water-pretreatment permit apparently is good through June 2011 and the GP-baseline permit through September 2010.
However, DEQ spokesmen say the plant will not be allowed to begin production until it passes rigorous site inspections.
Lunsford and his partner Kenneth Cook, of Madison, originally planned to set up shop near the Port of Aberdeen, but Mayor Jim Ballard said the project failed to secure state economic development money because of “adverse news coverage” surrounding the operation.
MIPCO hired Tommy Tacker of Monroe County to refurbish equipment for the facility but denied he was an employee, despite asking the U.S. District Court to expand Tacker’s movement restrictions because he was its “sole consultant and designer,” Lunsford told the court in a May 27 letter.
Tacker and a former Tennessee lawyer face a December trial on federal allegations they defrauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture out of nearly $3 million of biofuels subsidies associated with a plant they operated in Nettleton.
That plant went bust as Tacker’s company went bankrupt, leaving dozens of regional businesses holding thousands of dollars of bills.
In early June, Lunsford told the Daily Journal MIPCO also plans to operate a refinery in Nettleton.
He was unavailable Friday to say whether this facility is the one once operated by Tacker.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfied/NEMS Daily Journal