Breaking News: Refinery Merger Fails

High Stakes for Community and the Columbia River at Port Westward

Breaking News: Refinery Merger Fails

Yet, Port Kicks Farmer Off Organic Mint Fields for Refinery Project That May Not Be Viable
touring farmland in columbia county, photo credit paloma ayala
Photo credit Paloma Ayala.

This week, Oregon Business magazine reported a major turn of events for the massive refinery proposed at Port Westward in the Columbia River Estuary. 

In 2018, Houston-based NEXT Renewables LLC (now rebranded as NXTClean Fuels, or NXT) proposed a huge non-conventional diesel and aviation fuel refinery at a farm-rich and salmon-sustaining bend in the Columbia River Estuary. Now, NXT’s investors appear to be heading for the exits. Oregon Business magazine reports that a potentially lucrative merger has fallen apart, calling into question the future of NXT’s project. According to Oregon Business Magazine, “the terminated deal was expected to bring $176 million to NXTClean Fuels ahead of the company’s initial public offering.”

Despite the refinery’s increasingly uncertain future, NXT recently caused the Port of Columbia County to displace local mint and cattle farming operations. Local mint farmer Warren Seely said:

I feel like it was a short-sighted move, especially with the recent development where (the company) did not get their merger. They can’t even legally build within the district right now.

Read the full story

NXT once touted a lucrative merger, but new SEC filings highlight red flags

Last year, NXT announced that it planned to merge with a newly-formed company known as Industrial Tech Acquisitions. NXT predicted that the merger could generate as much as $176 million. What a difference a year makes! In November 2023, NXT announced it was unable to complete the merger.

While NXT is downplaying the failed merger, the failure is a reminder that NXT’s proposal faces a highly uncertain future. What’s more, NXT’s October 2023 SEC filings reveal additional reasons to doubt NXT’s shaky project. Highlights include NXT’s admissions that:

  • NXT now lacks feedstock agreements for the proposed refinery and firm contracts to sell the fuel it would produce. The company “cannot assure [investors] that it will be able to negotiate one or more feedstock supply agreements or offtake agreements.”
  • The refinery has not yet been designed.
  • NXT’s management “does not have experience in the development, construction or operation of facilities that manufacture and sell” the types of fuels that NXT proposes to produce. 
  • NXT does not currently have enough money “to fund even a modest portion of its anticipated capital requirements,” estimated at $3–3.5 billion.

In dozens of pages, NXT’s SEC filings reveal a proposal with obvious flaws. Yet, the Port demanded that mint fields be cleared to site a portion of NXT’s project. The Port’s move is deeply unethical, with lasting consequences for the community even as NXT falters.

NXT may fall apart, and we are prepared to stand firm until it does.

NXT’s proposed refinery and rail yard are a terrible idea. The proposal would store 1 million barrels of flammable, toxic fuel and unknown feedstocks on unstable soil, behind dikes prone to overtopping, near farms, homes, and wetlands, and across the road from a Buddhist monastery. Maybe investors are finally getting the picture: NXT’s proposed refinery and rail yard are unworkable. If you think so too, sign our petition, and we will keep you updated and informed!

Sign Our Petition Urging Decision-Makers to Reject NXT:

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Background: High stakes for community and the Columbia River at Port Westward

In 2018, Houston-based NEXT Renewable Fuels (now known as NXTClean or NXT) proposed a non-conventional diesel refinery in the Columbia River Estuary near Clatskanie, Oregon. The proposal has clear flaws, and the community is pushing back.

  • Fueled by fracked gas and unknown feedstocks, the refinery would harm farms, water quality, and the neighboring community at Port Westward on unstable soil in the Columbia River Estuary. The area is located among wetlands and behind potentially unsound dikes prone to overtopping in a flood.
  • At 1.15 million tons of carbon pollution each year, the proposed non-conventional diesel refinery would be one of Oregon’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution. A large portion of this pollution comes from fracked gas used to make and heat hydrogen.
  • In June 2023, dozens of people packed a local land use hearing urging the Columbia County Planning Commission to deny NXT’s request for a land use permit to construct a 400-car rail yard on farmland. Every speaker opposed NXT’s proposed rail yard, citing pollution concerns and NXT’s broken promise not to use rail to deliver feedstocks, such as soybean oil. The community had an impact! Before a decision could be made, NXT withdrew the permit application in July 2023. NXT has not re-applied, indicating the proposal’s lack of progress.

Columbia Riverkeeper will continue to join with many local residents in opposing NXT and its significant negative impacts to homes, climate, habitat, farms, and a nearby Buddhist monastery.

Together we can stop this polluting project. Although some local and state permits have been issued, state and federal decision-makers still have the authority to say “no” to NXT. For instance:

  • In September 2022, Oregon DEQ denied NXT’s request for a Clean Water Act permit due to NXT’s application being riddled with errors and inconsistencies.
  • In October 2022, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) invalidated a key land use permit for the project’s 400-car rail yard. 
  • In July 2023, NXT withdrew its application to obtain a new land use approval.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to release a draft environmental impact statement (EIS). 

Stay tuned! The public will have more opportunities to comment in 2024.

Urge local, state, and federal officials to reject additional permits for the NXT refinery project.