April 14, 2019 at 8:36 pm | By CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE Staff Writer
MOSES LAKE — REC Silicon has announced that unless it can start selling its polysilicon to China, it will begin closing down its Moses Lake production facility on May 15.
“Under current market conditions, the company will not be able to continue operating the (Moses Lake) facility at 25 percent production capacity utilization and maintain sufficient liquidity to meet the operating cash flow requirements,” REC said in its annual report released Thursday.
If access to markets for polysilicon in China is not restored, the Moses Lake plant “will be placed in a longer-term shutdown and will not be re-commissioned until access to markets in China is restored or market conditions improve.”
According to a presentation given earlier this week, the company said that long-term shutdown could take place on June 30.
“This is a $1.7 billion investment in the lowest cost, lowest carbon power source in the world,” said Francine Sullivan, REC’s vice president for marketing. “This is a political problem entirely imposed by China.”
Sullivan blamed China’s “state industrial policy” for REC’s looming shutdown, and was hopeful but not optimistic that a solution could be reached quickly to keep the facility open in the near term.
“This is a good investment, a good facility; the people of Moses Lake should be very proud of what we’ve done here,” she said.
“We have a president who is fighting for us,” Sullivan said of the Trump administration’s efforts on behalf of REC during ongoing trade talks. “He’s doing things to right the wrongs and avoid a shutdown, to keep us in business and put us back to business so we can hire people.”
The company has set aside $3.7 million from a recent sale of stock to cover the costs of shuttering the Moses Lake facility, which uses a patented “fluid-bed reactor” to create pure silicon used to make solar panels. The process makes REC one of the lower cost producers of solar grade silicon in the world, but a tariff dispute over solar panels from 2013 made REC’s products too expensive in China, effectively blocking it from 90 percent of the world’s polysilicon demand.
REC also has a facility in Butte, Montana, where it makes pure silicon gas — silane — for use in flat panel displays. Silane gas has been unaffected by either the 2013 trade dispute or the ongoing trade war with China.