COLUMBUS — Baard Energy wants investors to give them $6.8 billion so they can build a coal refinery in Wellsville, Ohio. Potential investors will want to know if Baard Energy can pull off a project of that size. What is Baard’s actual track record with these developments? Ohio Citizen Action took a closer look at Baard’s track record, by examining each of the projects described in the company’s 2010 application to the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority. Here’s what they said, and what we found:
Baard Energy’s Ohio River Clean Fuels, LLC, application to the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority states:
Baard and its affiliated companies has over 20 years of experience in the design, development, and construction of a variety of energy projects, including natural gas powered electric generating facilities, ethanol production plants, biodiesel production plants, and coal to liquids projects. . .
Experienced Developer: Baard has developed and constructed seven alternative energy projects over the past 20 years. Baard developed an 88 million gallon per year Ethanol plant in Ravenna, Nebraska, and a 55 million per year Ethanol plant in Coshocton, Ohio. A third 100 million gallon per year ethanol development in Iowa is fully permitted and financing is currently being completed. Baard successfully developed over 1,200 MW of electrical generation at four separate facilities in the last twenty years and built a retail electric marketing business in Michigan, Illinois, and Texas.
A slide in the application lists Baard Company Credentials, as follows:
Baard Generation LLC
20 years experience in the development of power plants in the USA & Canada:
Three 16 MW wood-fired QF projects, Michigan and Pennsylvania
· Windsor Power – 110 MW Natural Gas
· South Point AZ – 550 MW Natural Gas
· Wyandotte MI – 572 MW Natural Gas
Baard Renewables LLC
Develops ethanol and biodiesel facilties in the USA
· Ravenna, NE – 88 million gallons/yr
· Coshocton, OH – 55 million gallons/yr
Baard Clean Fuels LLC
Fischer-Tropsch Project Developer
· Wellsville, OH – 53,100 bpd FT project under development
Here are Ohio Citizen Action’s findings:
Baard Generation LLC
Of the companies listed in this section, the three small wood-fired power plants were apparently sold by Baard in 1987, over 20 years ago. We do not know if these are still operating, but at most they represent 48 MW of electric generation.
Of the three natural gas plants listed, the two in Windsor, Ontario, which Baard sold in 1995, and South Point Arizona, which Baard sold in 1998, appear to be operating.
Baard describes the third plant, in Wyandotte, Michigan plant on its website: “Developed by Baard from 1997 to 2000. Sold by Baard in 2000.” What the website doesn’t say is that the project was sold to Mirant Zeeland, a company which went bankrupt in 2003. According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, this plant never became operational (phone conversation, 4/7/10). During the bankruptcy, Mirant sold two turbines from the Wyandotte plant to Xcel Energy, who shipped them to a plant in St. Paul. (Mirant 2006 10-Q filing, Securities and Exchange Commission).
Thus, Baard’s statement in its Ohio Air Quality Development Authority application that “Baard successfully developed over 1,200 MW of electrical generation at four separate facilities in the last twenty years” appears to be highly questionable, since the Michigan plant, the biggest of the three natural gas plants, apparently never generated one watt of electricity.
Baard Renewables LLC
Baard mentions three ethanol plants in its application.
The first is in Ravenna, Nebraska. Baard sold this plant in 2004 to Abengoa Bioenergy. The plant went on-line in 2007 and is currently operating (phone conversation with plant, 3/31/10). In 2007, the C.J. Schneider company sued Baard Renewables and its related companies and owner for copyright infringement, saying that designs for the plant had been copied and used unlawfully. The lawsuit was settled but the terms have not been made public.
The second plant listed is Coshocton Ethanol. Baard’s website currently says the following about the plant: “Developed by Baard from 2003 to 2006. Sold by Baard in 2006. Commercial operation anticipated in 2008.”
Baard sold the Coshocton plant to Altra Biofuels, a California company. The plant went on-line in February 2008, but, according to the Coshocton Tribune, “By December 2008, almost all of the employees had been laid off” (“Money still being sought from ethanol plant,” Coshocton Tribune, March 6, 2010). A skeleton maintenance crew has been retained at the plant, which is now mired in a series of lawsuits for unpaid bills. In 2009, a federal court ordered Coshocton Ethanol to pay $10 million to The Industrial Company, which oversaw the plant’s construction, and a lawsuit by Integrys Energy Services is ongoing. According to press reports, the Coshocton Ethanol plant also owes $7 million to the City of Coshocton, which had taken out loans from the Ohio Water Quality Development Authority for the ethanol plant.
The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority had issued taxable revenue bonds to finance this plant in 2007, with Morgan Stanley as the placement agent. Because the bonds were apparently sold through private placement, Ohio Citizen Action does not know whether the project may have defaulted on the bonds or whether they were insured.
The third plant mentioned in the application is a proposed plant in Hinton, Iowa, known as the Floyd Valley Ethanol plant. In the February 2010 application, Baard says, “A third 100 million gallon per year ethanol development in Iowa is fully permitted and financing is currently being completed.”
By November 2009, three months before Baard submitted its new application to the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, Iowa Economic Development Board Due Diligence committee voted to terminate its contract with Floyd Valley Ethanol because “Floyd Valley Ethanol LLC indicates they have discontinued the project and would like to terminate the contract.”
Based on this evidence, we believe that Baard’s claim in the 2010 Ohio Air Quality Development Authority application that the Hinton project is “fully permitted and financing is currently being completed,” could be a false statement.
Baard’s summary of its accomplishments in its 2010 application also refers to “biodiesel plants,” although no biodiesel plants are listed or referenced anywhere else in the application. However, Baard’s 2006 application to the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority did list a biodiesel project in the “Credentials” slide, as follows:
♦ Angelina LA Biodiesel – 100 million gallons/yr
Ohio Citizen Action has not been able to find any information on this plant, either on Baard’s website or anywhere else. The website of Altra Biofuels, which purchased the Coschocton Ethanols plant, refers briefly to a similarly-named “Angeleno Group” as an “investor,” although there is no mention of any specific plant. Presumably, Baard dropped the reference to “Angelina LA Biodiesel” in the 2010 application because it never materialized — this raising the question of whether Baard can back up its 2010 claim to “experience in the design, development, and construction of … biodiesel production plants.”
In general, Baard appears to consider a project “successful” if Baard was able to sell it to someone else before it became operational, rather than if the plant did what it was intended to do. Even using this criteria, Baard’s last “successful” project (Coshocton Ethanol) was sold in 2006. Baard also announced two other Ohio projects in 2004 and 2005 that never materialized. These two plants were at first proposed as Integrated Coal gasification and Combined Cycle plants, then were changed to Fischer-Tropsch liquids plants with the names Ashtabula Clean Fuels LLC and Coschocton Clean Fuels LLC.
— Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action