BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Fire that broke out during a methanol transfer destroyed the American Biofuels biodiesel plant here Friday, just after it had reached full operation and had taken on major orders for fuel. No one was injured in the hours-long blaze.

Green Star Products Inc., which is a 35-percent equity owner of American Biofuels, L.L.C., announced the fire incident today.

According to the news release, the accident happened outside of the plant building when, during a transfer of methanol, a small spill occurred that ignited (ignition source unknown, probable cause static electricity). The plant was in full production mode when the outside fire spread into the building.

Green Star said the operators followed their training and safety procedures and quickly shut down operations. Then, when they could not contain the fire with on-site extinguishers, they left the premises and quickly notified the fire department and personnel in the other buildings located on the Hondo Chemical Plant property where the ABF plant resided.

The plant burned violently for several hours, and the plumes of smoke could be seen for miles.

Although the entire plant was destroyed, five biodiesel tanks (containing approximately 30,000 gallons) and 6,000 gallons of methanol were saved; and approximately 90,000 gallons of corn oil stored in railroad cars were moved back safely with only some minor fire damage to the exterior of the cars.

No other buildings were affected, because they were not in close proximity. ABF suffered a total loss of the building and equipment.

The release said that Joe LaStella, a director of ABF, arrived on the scene within minutes of this flare-up and talked immediately with the Fire Chief and other firefighters with important information on how to contain the fire.

The news account from The Bakersfield Californian can be read here.

Green Star said the accident happened when ABF had finally reached a point where the biodiesel plant was in full operation. ABF was ready to process 125,000 gallons of on-hand feedstock and was negotiating an order to supply 100,000 gallons to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line on March 11th, and had many other marketing opportunities this year.

Green Star said, "We are deeply indebted to all of the people that have been a part of ABF'S growth over these past five years. Joe was devastated to watch the fire destroy the plant that he and his team so carefully engineered and built."

In the aftermath of the loss, both companies are investigating strategies to resume production.

Offers have already been received from interested parties to joint-venture new construction of a Biodiesel Plant.
In the past, ABF has demonstrated that a producing plant can be built in 16 weeks. In identifying a location with proper permits, building, utilities and infrastructure, the same time frame should be in place to construct the next-generation Biodiesel Plant.

In the meantime, ABF'S production crew will be used to fabricate the main components for a new plant at the fully equipped 5,000-square-foot Research & Development facilities funded by GSPI, located 15 miles away from the Hondo location. GSPI will also be funding ABF during the next few weeks. As a further use of personnel, GSPI will assign personnel to its Blending & Bottling Facility in Chula Vista to fulfill retail and industrial orders of the synthetic lubricant TVT 24-7 for NRG Resources Inc., of Santa Ana, Calif.

Green Star Products over the past three years has funded research & development along with equipment purchases for ABF in the amount of approximately $1,000,000.

American Biofuels has been a member of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) since 2001, and in the same year received its registration for three EPA certificates for its biodiesel fuel and fuel additives. ABF was also approved to participate in the USDA Bioenergy Program, which pays producers cash incentives for biodiesel production.

Green Star Products Inc. is an environmentally friendly company dedicated to creating innovative cost-effective products to improve the quality of life and clean up the environment. GSPI is involved in the production of renewable clean-burning biodiesel and other products including lubricants, additives and devices that reduce emissions and improve fuel economy in vehicles, machinery and power plants.

SOURCE: Green Star Products Inc. via Business Wire.