Imperium Renewables ‘Royally’ Screwed?

One year after the vaunted opening of its 100-million-gallon-a-year, $78 million biodiesel plant at the Port of Grays Harbor, Imperium Renewables has lost its contract to supply Royal Caribbean with 18 million gallons of biodiesel annually, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. The news –which also revealed that the cruise ship company sold off its $10 million stake in the plant — broke just days after the Seattle-based biodiesel firm said it had closed its two-person Hawaii office.

The Royal Caribbean contract was named as a critical business opportunity in Imperium’s $345 million IPO filing, which was withdrawn in January. The company’s SEC filing noted the substantial negative impact the loss of the contract would have on its business.

As we reported earlier this year, the city of Seattle was also forced to put its biodiesel supply contract with Imperium on “indefinite hold” due to rising fuel costs.

The collapsed Royal Caribbean contract is likely part of an overall “cost savings” program announced by Royal Caribbean in its second quarter earnings statement, which detailed the heavy impact rising fuel costs have had on its business. Fuel prices climbed 55 percent for the quarter, and the cruise line company anticipates spending an additional $86 million for the year, bringing total fuel costs to $772 million. (We’ve left messages with Royal Caribbean and Imperium and will update if any more information becomes available.)

The news could also mark the start of troubles for a variety of other economic development activities in the region. Imperium’s plant played a key role in establishing the foundation for a $5 million workforce development grant awarded to the Pacific Mountain Alliance for Innovation. Although employees have continued to report for work, local paper The Daily World notes that exports from the Imperium Renewables terminal at the Port stopped in April.