Continental Refining Company (CRC) held a star-studded groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday to kick off a biofuel branch that it hopes to open by the end of 2022.
Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman called the event a celebration, while Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles called the proposal an important investment in Kentucky.
But the soft-spoken owner of CRC, Demetrios Haseotes, may have said it best when he called the refinery’s new plan “a durable solution and a business that’s going to be around for a long, long time.”
For around 100 years, the site of CRC has been the biggest oil product refinery in the area – something that Haseotes didn’t see changing when he bought the property almost exactly 10 years ago.
“I didn’t imagine when we came out here that this is where we would be in 10 years,” he said. “Without great employees, we wouldn’t be here at all.
“The project, from the very beginning, was extremely difficult. It was an old asset, it was tired, and at a point it wasn’t safe. So in 2018, I made the decision to close it down rather than have somebody get hurt.”
Quarles noted in his speech how unusual it was to see a mothballed facility being brought back online in this day and age.
As Steve Morris, controller/Chief Financial Officer for Hemisphere Limited explained, CRC will undergo a multi-million dollar expansion which will allow the refinery to process not only oil-based fuel, but soy-based diesel fuel as well.
The refinery currently has 11 employees, Morris said. “Over the course of the next nine months or so, we will be adding another 25 to 30 good, high-paying jobs for the region.”
CRC with process and distribute both petroleum and biofuels, Morris said.
“The transformation we’ll be going through over the next nine months or so is really going to be set up into three different operations,” he explained.
The first will be a soy processing branch that will buy beans from local farmers and turn those crops into three products: Soybean meal, soy oil and soy hulls.
The meal and hulls will go into animal feed, while the soy oil will be sent to the biodiesel side of the plant.
That biodiesel processing plant is the second of the three new operations, while the biofuel produced there will be used in the third stage, what Morris called a state-of-the-art fuel blending terminal that can blend the biofuel with traditional diesel.
Morris said the new productions will open up new markets in the region and provide farmers, CRC customers, vendors, investors and the entire community a new, durable agrotech business.
He said that the plant plans to buy and process up to 5.5 million bushels of soybeans a year.
Quarles noted that having a soy-buying facility within Somerset gives local farmers a good place to bring their crops. He talked about a local farmer he knows who has said he has to drive to Owensboro to sell his soy.
This facility would help save local farmers on maintenance and upkeep costs on their vehicles by delivering those crops somewhere much closer.
“Next time you fill up your tank with … diesel, be sure to know that you’re putting a little piece of Kentucky in your tank as well. You’re helping our ag community out,” Quarles said.
Lt. Governor Coleman talked about how she was reminded about who we are as Kentuckians and what was truly important as she spent the past week out in Western Kentucky helping those who are recovering from the tornado damage.
“To go from complete devastation and to be able to be here with you today to celebrate is an honor and is, quite frankly, good for the soul to be here with you,” she told the crowd.
Coleman said the state has been at an “odd crossroads” over the past couple of years due to dealing with the pandemic but also seeing unprecedented economic growth during the same time.
“To be here with you today in Somerset to celebrate this means that you are a part of this huge wave that we’re going through right now in economic development. I think we’re up to like 17,000 jobs that have been created in Ky now, $11 billion with investments across Kentucky just in this year,” she said.
Other speakers at Tuesday’s event included Somerset-Pulaski Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bobby Clue; SPEDA President/CEO Chris Girdler; Somerset Mayor Alan Keck; State Representatives Josh Branscum, Shane Baker and Ken Upchurch; Kentucky House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade; and State Senator Rick Girdler.