The Odessa Record -

Hemp oil processor wants to buy former biodiesel plant

 

Terrie Schmidt-Crosby

Odessa's former biodiesel plant may become the site of a hemp oil processing facility if state agency accepts bid amount as loan repayment from Odessa Public Development Authority.

By TERRIE SCHMIDT-CROSBY

The Odessa Public Development Authority, at its public meeting held Monday evening in the hospital's Guild Room, voted to accept a bid for the shuttered former biodiesel plant on Railroad Avenue in Odessa from an investment group with the name of Hemp Tech Consulting, Inc. of Torrance, Calif. Acceptance was contingent, however, on the Wash. state Dept. of Ag agreeing to accept the bid amount as payment in full of obligations owed to it by the OPDA for the failed biodiesel operation.

According to information provided at Monday's meeting, the principal operators of the HempTech team are Matthew Mandel, CEO, who is defined as "a leader in investment real estate with an impressive portfolio in Los Angeles;" Steve A. Johnson, also a real estate broker and owner of Precision Asset Management, Inc., in which he oversees a staff of over 70 persons in Los Angeles; Connor Deife, designated the chief operating officer or COO, a local Odessa product who has "formal education in chemical engineering, along with years of experience in design, build-out and operations of large-scale biomass extraction facilities;" Traig Weishaar, a local third-generation farmer who "has familiarized himself with the hemp crop and is preparing 150 acres for the successful growth of our crops commencing in the months of June and July" and Michael A. Hermosillo, chief financial officer, with ties to real estate, international business development and technology.

With an initial investment of $10 million in the processing plant to be housed in Odessa, HempTech Consulting intends to bring 90 family wage jobs to Odessa. Since hemp was removed from the list of scheduled and regulated substances when President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill in December, the consulting group says it anticipates market growth of 372 percent, as well as benefits to farmers who add hemp to their rotation cycle. HempTech wants to be among the first in line to take advantage of this market.

One major question posed by the members of the OPDA was, "If you plan to bring 90 new jobs to Odessa, where are all those people going to live?" Mandel's response was that initially people would come from Odessa itself, the surrounding area and California. Those coming from out of state could live as far away as Spokane, he said, because people from L.A., for example, are used to a one- to two-hour commute to work. Beyond that he said that HempTech would be involved in creating housing.

Other questions that were asked involved THC levels and odors emanating from the plant. Industrial hemp contains only miniscule amounts of THC, the substance in marijuana that makes people high. By law the hemp oil produced for human use can contain a maximum of 0.03 percent THC. If that number is exceeded, the processor must chemically reduce the amount to be in compliance.

As far as odors are concerned, HempTech claims the hemp simply smells pretty much like hay and uses no Level 3 hazardous chemicals (materials extremely hazardous to health) in the processing. Nevertheless, based on their California experiences with environmental protections, the company has air filtration and scrubbing systems that it plans to install to prevent any problem with odors.

The second bid received by the OPDA was from a company in India that intended to produce food-grade canola oil. Since HempTech offered a higher bid and also had local connections to the community, the choice went to them. Now it is up to the state ag department to decide whether it will accept the bid offer as payment in full.OPDA

Hemp oil processor wants to buy former biodiesel plant

 

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