Ethanol plant in receivership
Amaizeingly Green presented a $50,000 cheque to the Town of Collingwood for the purchase of a foam tote trailer for fire suppression on Friday, May 13, 2011. From left with the cheque, Clearview mayor Ken Ferguson, fire chief Trent Elyea, Daryl Dorchak, and Collingwood mayor Sandra Cooper. Morgan Ian Adams/QMI File Photo
COLLINGWOOD — A company with a troubled history with its neighbours and the municipality has gone into receivership.
The owners of Amaizeingly Green, which started out as Collingwood Ethanol in 2007, taking over the former Nacan starch plant, filed for receivership of the plant on Monday.
The plant, which produced fertilizer and pet food, as well as more than 50 million litres of ethanol annually, employed about 70 people. Employees were informed by plant manager Daryl Dorchak Tuesday morning.
Sources say the plant had not been operating for several months due to the higher cost of corn.
Media inquiries were referred to Allan Rutman of Zeifman Partners, which is acting as receiver and manager. Amaizeingly Green’s parent company, Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund applied for an order through the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Monday to appoint Zeifman as receiver.
Rutman said the chief reason for the shutdown has been the price of corn.
“It is unprofitable to produce ethanol, and as a result, the plant has essentially been a cash drain since (ethanol) production ceased,” said Rutman. “There are insuffient funds to continue to support the facility.
Fertilizer production, and to a limited extent, the production of animal feed, will continue for the time being; 21 employees will remain working at the plant, said Rutman.
Forty-eight people have been on layoff since ethanol production ceased in July.
The plant’s fertilizer business has remained unaffected by the price of corn, said Rutman, and is actually profitable. He says the diversification of products that are produced by the plant may make the facility appealing to a potential buyer.
“(Other ethanol businesses) may see this as an opportunity to acquire a facility at a low cost,” he said.
Rutman said there has also been significant investment into the operation, and the equipment is state-of-the-art — which may make it valuable to a buyer looking for a smaller facility with limited production capacity.
Part of Rutman’s job will be to source out a potential buyer, and to that end, he said, a sales package will be developed to target other ethanol producers. The plant will also be advertised in business trade publications.
Mayor Sandra Cooper said it was disappointing to see the plant go into receivership.
“It is disappointing, especially at this time of year with the families who are affected,” said Cooper. “I’m sure it was a difficult decision.”
Cooper said the town’s acting CAO sent a note to council members on Tuesday morning to inform them of the situation.
Cooper said she has asked the town’s executive management team to examine how the municipality can assist with the situation, including helping to find a new buyer.
The plant was welcomed with open arms by municipality in 2007, after the closure of Nacan in 2004. However, the industry — benefitting under federal and provincial government policies that encouraged higher ethanol content in gasoline, as well as federal funding of more than $7 million to convert the plant to produce ethanol — soon ran afoul of its residential neighbours as it struggled to refine its processes and control odour emissions.
Residents petitioned the municipality in 2008 to step in and force the plant to deal with its odour issues, and the Ministry of the Environment issued several compliance orders after it exceeded the limits outlined by the plant’s certificate of approval.
The plant was also charged by the municipality after it exceeded limits in the sewer use bylaw.
Residents protested the plant after a particularly smelly weekend in August, after a piece of equipment failed, and then-Mayor Chris Carrier and Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson lobbied the MOE to step in and shut the plant down until the odour problems were resolved
That led to a bizarre showdown between the municipality and plant officials, especially after Craig Chandler — the son of the plant’s principle owner Bruce Chandler — got involved and launched an inflammatory campaign that was more bluster than fact to discredit Carrier.
In June, 2009, plant officials pled guilty to several charges laid by the MOE and the Town of Collingwood, paying a $340,000 fine. The charges, for the most part, were the result of the plant exceeding the conditions of its certficate of approval with regard to odour emissions. Plant officials also officially apologized to the community — and Carrier — for Chandler’s campaign, which included two automated phone messages and a letter delivered door-to-door.
Relations with the municipality had improved over the last couple of years, however, and the plant appeared to have been operating with few of the issues that plagued the company for its first couple of years. The company sponsored the regional Silver Stick tournament, and minor hockey in general, and in 2011, gave the municipality $50,000 towards the purchase of a foam tote trailer for the fire department.