COLUMBUS (AP) - Texas-based KiOR Inc. has reached a milestone with the first shipments of cellulostic diesel from its biofuels production facility in Lowndes County, Miss.

KiOR President and Chief Executive Officer Fred Cannon said in a conference call Monday that the company will focus on achieving "steady state operations" in Columbus. He said KiOR expects to produce between 3 million and 5 million gallons for the year at that plant.

The announcement coincided with the company's fourth quarter 2012 earnings call

The Columbus facility is a smaller-scale version of what the company plans in Natchez, Miss., a cellulostic fuel plant that uses pine wood chips as feed stock.

The Columbus plant is a converted paper mill, which had been closed. In Natchez, the plant will be built from the ground up.

"We have learned a lot at Columbus over the last several months, and we believe we can apply the learnings from Columbus to the engineering and design of Natchez," Cannon said.

Cannon said commitments from important investors in the company have given KiOR a "clear line of sight, depending on market conditions" that could mean starting construction of the Natchez facility in the second half of the year, and as the Columbus facility gains traction in its production, the company will continue to solicit investors for Natchez.

Chief Financial Officer John Karnes said the company's management believes that within 60 to 90 days of raising the funding, KiOR will be ready to break ground and move forward.

"Everything we've learned from Columbus has all been confirmatory," Karnes said. "We have learned a lot, but it gives us more confidence on our ability to execute Natchez on time and on budget.

"After a quarter of production (in Columbus), we should have enough data for us to know more about utilization and more about yield and know exactly how to advance with Natchez."