Trouble Mounts for Once-Promising Imperium

John Davis

A year ago, I was telling you about how Imperium Renewables was opening a 100-million-gallon-a-year biodiesel plant in Grays Harbor, Washington (near Seattle) and how just the week before that announcement Imperium had inked a deal to provide 18 million gallons of the green fuel a year for the next four years to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

But what a difference a year makes, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that a series of missteps by the company has resulted in Royal Caribbean canceling that long-term contract and Imperium continuing its downward spiral:

The loss of the contract with Royal Caribbean – Imperium’s largest customer – is a huge setback. And it follows a series of events over the past eight months – including the cancellation of an initial public offering, staff layoffs and executive departures – that highlight the troubles facing the one-time rising star in Seattle’s clean tech industry.

In a short statement provided Thursday to the Seattle P-I, Royal Caribbean said that “any financial or contractual relationships between our company and Imperium Renewables were ended by July 1, 2008.” Royal Caribbean spokesman Michael Sheehan declined further comment.

A spokesman for Imperium also declined to comment.

This latest development raises some serious questions about the future of Imperium and the Grays Harbor refinery, which was the nation’s largest biodiesel plant in the nation when it opened a year ago.