Xethanol Corporation, which plans to convert a wood plant into an ethanol refinery in Spring Hope, N.C., is looking for a new executive officer.

Xethanol (Amex: XNL) said Tuesday that board member Louis Bernstein had replaced CEO Christopher d’Arnaud-Taylor on an interim basis. A search has been launched for a permanent replacement.

The company cited no reason for the change. However, it has been criticized recently in media reports from Sharesleuth.com and The Street.com.

Shares in Xethanol fell 14 percent after the initial Sharesleuth.com report that raised questions about the company’s management, technology and production capabilities.

Xethanol shares closed up 4 cents at $5.25 on Tuesday.

Xethanol plans to renovate the Spring Hope facility to produce 35 million gallons of biomass-based ethanol a year. It operates an ethanol refinery in Blairstown, IA, and is acquiring a facility in Augusta, GA.

For its North Carolina operation, Xethanol acquired Aganol Biorefineries of Spring Hope. The company also was known as Carolina Fiberboard. It is to operate as a subsidiary of Xethanol under the name Spring Hope BioFuels.

The company plans to convert a former International Paper Plant into a refinery. It has been vacant since 1998. The facility, which employed 191 people when it was closed, covers 212 acres and includes 200,000 square feet of factory buildings.

Bernstein, a board member since June of 2005, recently retired from Pfizer where he served as in-house counsel.
In a statement, Xethanol said it is also seeking to hire a chief operating officer.

Xethanol: www.xethanol.com