A second delay has pushed back the startup date for Metabolix Inc.'s first commercial-scale bioplastics plant until at least October about one year later than it was originally slated to begin operations.
The plant will make PHA, or polyhydroxyalkanoate, grown in fermentation vats using sugar and microbes.
Cambridge, Mass.-based Metabolix also announced that it lost $36 million in 2008 compared with $27.9 million in 2007.
The delay comes as NatureWorks LLC is close to reaching the nameplate capacity of 300 million pounds per year of its corn-based polylactic acid resin at its plant in Blair, Neb., and has begun to look for a second plant location, possibly in Asia.
Metabolix President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Eno said in a March 13 phone interview that he expected the delay would have a pretty small impact on the rollout of its Mirel PHA resin.
All the major equipment is in place and the buildings are up, for the $300 million plant in Clinton, Iowa, Eno said. But we still need to have the final piping, electrical and instrument controls installed.
The plant's annual capacity of 110 million pounds of PHA can be expanded to four times that.
Eno said a delay in detailed engineering plans necessitated a slowdown in the pace of construction. Engineering needs to catch up with construction.
In addition, he said Metabolix's partner, Archer Daniels Midland Co., which is building the plant, is still conducting an internal review it began last fall that is designed to keep costs under control. The joint venture between the two companies is called Telles. Plans for the plant were first announced Feb. 13, 2006.
ADM will complete its review in late April, he said. ADM has not committed to the October date. That is best on the best information we have, said Eno. We will know in a month.
That concerns Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Cox. Our enthusiasm for the long-term growth potential for Metabolix remains unchanged. But we fear additional delays are possible.