County Approves Bonds for Montana Renewables Conversion Project

The Cascade County Commissioners voted 2-0 to issue $275 million in income debentures to Montana Renewables, a Calumet Montana Refining associate.

Commissioner Joe Briggs was traveling and absent.

Montana Renewables will use the proceeds from the bonds to “fund all or a portion of the cost of acquiring, constructing, installing, remodeling, modifying and repurposing infrastructure and improvements … to sustain a renewable fuels refinery.” create alternatives capable of processing renewable raw materials into sustainable raw materials; a hydraulic expansion of the renewable fuels refinery, including the construction and installation of various pumps, control valves, piping and compressors, a new hydrogen plant and related improvements; Acquisition and installation of equipment at the renewable fuels refinery to facilitate the production of sustainable aviation fuel; and related improvements,” the district said.

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Once the bonds are issued, the district will, depending on the district, enter into one or more loan agreements or other financing or credit agreements with Montana Renewables to repay the bonds.

The commissioners voted in February to adopt a resolution announcing their intention to issue the bonds.

Montana Renewables is a renewable fuel company.

The company is converting part of the existing Calumet refinery into a renewable diesel facility.

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Once fully operational, Montana Renewables will “use waste feedstocks to produce low-emission alternatives that directly replace fossil fuel products such as renewable hydrogen, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel,” according to the company.

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Wayne Leiker, vice president of Calumet’s Montana Refinery, told commissioners during their special meeting on Nov. 30 that they have completed the rebuild and are now in the ramp-up phase of the project.

Montana Renewables began production this month and shipped its first railcars of renewable diesel fuel on Nov. 30, the company said.

“Today is the beginning. By early 2023, not only will we be producing renewable diesel and renewable naphtha, we will be the largest sustainable aviation fuel production facility in the country,” said Ron Colwell, general manager of Montana Renewables, in a press release.

The project also includes a new hydrogen plant, which is expected to be completed in January, and a pre-treatment plant, which is expected to be completed in March, Leiker said.

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Once the pretreatment unit is operational, the company can purchase raw materials, opening up further economic opportunities for the company, the region and the state, Leiker said. The products are transported by rail, he said.

The company is working with the city on possible wastewater treatment, but has other options if that doesn’t work, Leiker told commissioners.

The original plan included 180 jobs, now it’s up to 220, Leiker told the commissioners.

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He said they expect to increase the economic impact of the refinery and renewable energy plant by more than 20 percent.

The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Leiker said.

Montana Renewables executive vice president Bruce Fleming told commissioners that the new renewable energy company and Calumet are separate companies and could operate independently.

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The companies are also separate taxpayers of the Montana Department of Revenue, according to county officials.

Both the city and county commissions approved a tax break for Calumet’s project this year.

County Commissioner Jim Larson said, “I think this is an excellent project,” and it’s nice that the county can help with the bond.

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