Railroad helps build biofuel facility

A sister company of Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co. has signed an agreement with Gen-X Energy Group to build a new facility in Richland to make biofuel.

The new facility will sit on land owned by the sister company called 10 North Washington Avenue in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park, said Rydel Peterson, vice president of the short-line railroad company.

"We've agreed to work together to develop the property," Peterson said, adding the details of the project including the size, cost and financing for the building are still being worked out.

The company 10 North Washington Avenue is owned by Peterson's father, Randy, according to the state Secretary of State's website.

The proposed plant also will include a facility to store raw materials and finished fuel, Rydel Peterson said.

Gen-X, which lost its Burbank biodiesel plant to a fire in early July, couldn't be reached about the agreement. The company's website says Gen-X is not going out of business and that it continues to produce and deliver certified biodiesel to its clients.

Gen-X will benefit from using the short-line service and access to both BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad, Peterson said.

For Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co., which previously transported raw materials to Gen-X's Burbank plant, the new agreement is an extension of its old business relationship, Peterson said.

The talks between the two companies have been going on for a while now, he said. The move was partly prompted by his company's ongoing legal battle with BNSF about track use rights on 16 miles of track extending from Kennewick to Richland.

The track is owned by the Port of Benton and leased to Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co. through 2032 for moving freight.

BNSF recently ended its partnership with the short-line railroad and began providing services directly to customers along the Richland track.

"We've lost about 40 percent of our revenue," Peterson said. The company also laid off 17 of its 32 employees in the last three weeks, he said.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541;; Business Beat blog at