Pacific Ethanol lays off workers, idles Nebraska ethanol plant: sources

Source: By Jarrett Renshaw and Michael Hirtzer, Reuters • Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2018

NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Pacific Ethanol Inc (PEIX.O) has laid off 26 of 60 workers at an ethanol plant in Aurora, Nebraska, due to poor economics in biofuel production, two sources familiar with the decision said on Wednesday.

The company, the sixth-largest U.S. ethanol producer, also idled 45 million gallons of production capacity at the Nebraska site and had no near-term plans to restart it, the sources said. Another part of the plant, with capacity to make 110 million gallons per year, continues to operate.

A company spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Including other plants, Pacific now has put nearly 20 percent of its total U.S. ethanol capacity offline, according to the sources.

Pacific shares fell to a lifetime low of $1.20 on Tuesday, before recovering slightly to $1.21 on Wednesday.

Ethanol makers in the United States have been hit by collapsing biofuel prices and higher costs for the corn and natural gas used to produce it, making production unprofitable for many. A loss of ethanol exports to China, formerly a top outlet for U.S. biofuel, as a result of President Donald Trump’s trade war with Beijing also contributed to an ethanol oversupply.

Ethanol maker Green Plains Inc (GPRE.O) has also said it was laying off workers, turning off plants and even selling some facilities.

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in New York and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis