Huckabay Ridge, an Erath County renewable energy production facility, has been sold.
The plant, which worked to turn one of the county's most bountiful resources - cow manure - into power, and went from groundbreaking to breaking the bank in less than five years, has been purchased by a Houston-based corporation, Elements Markets, LLC.
The privately-held alternative energy development and environmental commodities marketing company that recently purchased the local facility, is led by the former chairman and chief executive officer of Enron Energy Services, Lou L. Pai.
Enron is another Texas-based energy firm that went bust about a decade ago. The company was the subject of a scandal which broke in 2001 following billions of dollars in shareholder losses. Enron, which reportedly had more than $63 billion in assets, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and an investigation led to the indictment and sentencing of several of the company's executives.
But Pai escaped prosecution according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
"Element Markets, co-founded by Lou L. Pai. Pai, has had a long and, at times, controversial career in energy," a recent article posted last week at Bloomberg Businessweek online, www.businessweek.com, states. "After working at ConocoPhillips and DuPont, he landed at Enron in the 1990s, where he led the retail energy unit. Pai left Enron six months before it collapsed in late-2001, pocketing more than $265 million from exercising Enron options and selling stock, according to a U.S. Senate panel. Without admitting wrongdoing he agreed to forfeit $25 million to settle SEC allegations that he abused inside information to dodge investment losses before Enron's demise. He was not charged."
According to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, the commission filed civil action against Pai in July 2008. The complaint alleged that "Pai sold Enron stock in May and June 2001 on the basis of material, nonpublic information concerning Enron, and Pai simultaneously settled the action without admitting or denying the allegations."
The SEC settlement barred Pai from manning the helm of any public company until 2013.
Elements Markets is a private corporation.
Elements Markets announced in mid-November that its subsidiary, EM Biogas, LLC, has acquired Huckabay Ridge Anaerobic Digestion Facility from the estate of Environmental Power Corporation, according to www.elementmarkets.com.
Businessweek reported that Huckabay Ridge went for the "bargain-basement price of $3.3 million."
In announcing the recent purchase, Randy Lack, a founding member and chief marketing officer of Element Markets, said the key to Huckabay Ridge's future success will be finding the right niche.
"The agricultural-based alternative energy market has had a number of technological success stories but very few commercial successes. The commercialization of alternative energy projects requires more focus on identifying market niches where green energy can compete with brown energy," Lack said. "Element Markets believes that the biomethane market can provide clean energy and reduced emissions while being commercially successful. We are very excited about the future of the Huckabay Ridge Anaerobic Digestion Facility."
Huckabay Ridge is home to eight super-sized digester tanks with a capacity of more than 900,000 gallons each. The plant converts manure and organics into methane-rich biogas through the process of anaerobic digestion. The biogas is compressed and conditioned for pipeline injection and can be used to produce power and fuel.
A grounbreaking ceremony was held for the facility in September 2005 and reached full-capacity in 2008.
"This acquisition is significant to the clean energy markets because the performance of the facility will highlight the potential of agricultural methane as a viable clean energy resource, and positions Element Markets as one of the largest biomethane suppliers in North America," the company's website says in a statement that echoes the words of Environmental Power representatives just five years ago.