Probex Goes Belly Up


Probex Corp. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection May 13, ending its nine-year effort to set a new standard in base oil rerefining.

The Addison, Texas, company said it made the filing in order to conduct an orderly sell-off of assets. Probex had been planning for four years to build a rerefining plant in Wellsville, Ohio, but failed in a yearlong effort to obtain $100 million in financing. Officials maintained this week that the project was sound, saying it was foiled by a poor market for project financing.

We think we have a breakthrough technology that proved successful in our pilot trials, said Charles Rampacek, Probexs chief executive officer until the bankruptcy filing. We had lined up customers and feedstock supply and secured an engineering, procurement and construction contract. The problem was that the marketplace for the type of project financing we were after is basically nonexistent at this time.

Last weeks announcement came as no surprise, as Probex warned in February that it did not have funds to pay $26.4 million in debt due at the end of that month. The company had been trying since then to restructure the debt or obtain other financing to continue operations, but did not succeed.

The backbone of Probexs business plan was ProTerra, a process that it patented to rerefine used lubricants to produce base oils. It claimed that its technology yielded higher quality product than other rerefining techniques and that its base oils performed on par with virgin base oils, at competitive prices.

The Wellsville plant was designed to process 183,000 metric tons of lubricants annually. While planning that project, the companys main activity the past few years has been to collect used lubricants that it sold for heating oil. The collection business, which would have supplied the feedstock for Wellsville, was sold in April.

Late last year Probex announced a second project – a joint venture with unnamed French partners to build a rerefinery in France. That venture fell apart when Probex was unable to pay its share of the initial investment.

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