Construction is well underway, with work crews expected to grow over the coming months towards the on-schedule goal of completing the construction of Red Rock Biofuels by March.
As of last week roughly 70 workers were on site, with project manager Terry Freeman expecting that number to potentially double into the winter. In its second year of construction, the 26-acre, $320 million renewable fuels facility is finally beginning to take shape.
In talks since 2013, and with a groundbreaking in July 2018, the facility’s construction is a veritable game-changer in both economic impact to Lake County, efforts to combat climate change, and to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Expected to be operational in April, the facility is estimated to take in 136,000 tons of woody biomass materials such as tree limbs and excessive forest fuels collected from forest thinning projects, sawdust and other mill waste, and convert it into 15 million gallons of low-carbon fuels every year.
Two job fairs were held in recent weeks to begin filling what may be as many as 100 jobs needed for facility operations, transportation, and raw materials collection. Hotels, rentals, and RV Parks are noticeably filled to near-capacity to handle the growing number of construction workers in Lakeview, and permanent housing availability will become a growing need as Red Rock employment is likely to draw in families from out of the area to reside in Lakeview. While crews and tradesmen from Lake County have been active on the project, workers have been brought in from Klamath Falls and as far away as Medford to keep it all on schedule.
“This is a hard job, it is one of the harder jobs I’ve ever worked on,” said Freeman. “We are working nights and weekends, and concrete has been pouring as early as 2 or 3 a.m.”
A railroad spur to connect the facility to Lakeview’s railroad should be completed by next week, while a natural gas pipeline that connects a six-inch line tapping into the Ruby Pipeline is underway as well. Frames are currently going up on the administration building, and Freeman hopes to have paving done on much of the site by December.
Red Rock should really begin to take its final form in a month when the pre-fabricated gasification chambers and permanent structures begin arriving on skids. Being built off-site, the most complex machinery will be among the easiest to install, according to Freeman. “All I have to do is bolt it in,” laughed Freeman about the pre-made structures.
Following the groundbreaking Freeman’s main task was to level the site with gravel and some concrete last summer, but the foundational work was complicated by spring’s odd weather patterns. The excessively wet late spring led to site flooding from Goose Lake, complicated with remnant snow blocking site access. A redesign of the gasification buildings also caused some engineering delays – and that’s just the big stuff.
“There are a hundred things that happen every day,” laughed Freeman of the many moving parts involved and the potential for mishaps. “I print out a new schedule every week, and every schedule has a critical path. If something messes up, as long as it doesn’t affect the critical path, I’m okay.”
Freeman praised the exceptional work of the crews that have been on-site, from local tradesmen to contractors, for putting in nights and weekends as need be to stay on schedule. He also thanked Anderson Surveying & Engineering, who came onto the project partway through, and has been instrumental in civil and survey work on-site.
“We are shooting for finishing in March and operational by April,” said Freeman. “We don’t have a crystal ball, but we have built the schedule with contingencies for weather and other factors. We are trying to mitigate issues, but right now nothing is stopping us, we are cruising through.”
Freeman thanked the cooperation of the community for stepping up throughout the process when things have been needed, and being accommodating to workers.
“The community has been very helpful,” added Freeman. “If I need something, 99% of the time I get positive feedback, the people in town have all been very supportive.”