Creditors seek to put Abengoa U.S. bioethanol unit into bankruptcy

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Creditors of Abengoa Bioenergy of Nebraska LLC have asked a federal judge to put the U.S. affiliate of troubled Spanish renewable energy group Abengoa into bankruptcy because it owes them more $4 million for grain.

The involuntary bankruptcy petition, a rare form of legal action that seeks to impose court oversight on a company that is not paying its debts, comes as demand for U.S. biofuels has dropped in an environment of cheap crude oil.

The petition for a Chapter 7 liquidation against Abengoa Bioenergy of Nebraska, which operates a bioethanol plant in that state, was filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Nebraska late on Monday.

The company owes a total of $4.07 million to Gavilon Grain LLC, the Farmers Cooperative Association and The Andersons, Inc, for grain, court documents showed.

Abengoa and Abengoa Bioenergy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The filing also coincides with a tough time for Abengoa, which is expected to present its own viability plan to creditors on Wednesday in a bid to avoid becoming Spain’s biggest bankruptcy.

The company foresees closing the U.S. headquarters of Abengoa Bioenergy in St. Louis, unidentified sources told Spanish news website Andaluciainformacion.

In recent months, creditors have used involuntary bankruptcies to put several large energy companies into bankruptcy.

Abengoa Bioenergy of Nebraska can seek to dismiss the involuntary petition, or convert the case to a voluntary bankruptcy, which allows the company to control the proceedings.

Abengoa runs part of its renewable energy business through its Abengoa Bioenergy arm, which has dozens of subsidiaries including Abengoa Bioenergy of Nebraska, according to Abengoa Bioenergy’s annual report.

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski, additional reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by Chris Reese