Old Town Fuel and Fiber Shuts Down Indefinitely

This past week, Old Town Fuel and Fiber in Old Town, Maine, USA, announced that it is closing down its wood pulp operations indefinitely, putting nearly 200 employees on furlough. The company cited foreign competition and high wood and energy costs as key factors behind the closure, which represents a major setback for the state’s efforts to develop a biofuels industry.

Old Town City Manager Bill Mayo said in a Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) article that the city will work with the mill and state officials to find a new buyer for the facility.

The former Georgia-Pacific mill was acquired by Patriarch Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, in November 2008. Chemical pulp was the mill’s main business, but it was the only facility in Maine experimenting with biofuels production on a commercial scale.

The mill had been running a pilot project to produce butanol from wood cellulose,  supported by a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project was a collaboration with the University of Maine, which has done extensive research on how to distill fuels from wood. Butanol is a motor fuel that can be used in place of gasoline without any engine modifications.

"The city will work with the mill and state officials to try and find a new buyer and keep Old Town moving forward in a positive direction," Mayosaid in the newspaper article. Also, the Maine Department of Labor said that it has scheduled a program to help workers affected by the mill closure.