Legacy 18 MMgy Minnesota plant restarts ethanol production

By Susanne Retka Schill | September 10, 2014

Buffalo Lake Advanced Biofuels restarted Sept. 8, expecting to bring all systems up during the next several days and begin continuous operation once again. The plant was idled in 2009, purchased and run briefly in 2012, then purchased out of bankruptcy and renamed. The plant has run intermittently since June as repairs and upgrades were installed and tested, explained plant manager Kyle Peik. “We are up and running now, we started grinding this morning.”  About 35 people are working at the newly restarted plant, which includes a small staff in New Jersey at the offices of current owners, West Ventures LLC.

The legacy Katzen-designed plant in Buffalo Lake, Minnesota, first came online in 1997 as the 9 MMgy Minnesota Energy Cooperative, expanding to 18 MMgy before shutting down in 2009 during the industry downturn. It was restarted in June 2012 by Purified Renewable Energy LLC, with a purchase announced a few months later. Purified filed for bankruptcy in March 2013 and ultimately, the plant was purchased by one of its creditors, West Ventures. 

The investment group brought in Colorado-based IR1 Group to evaluate the plant and offer recommendations. IR1 has helped with repairs and upgrades in preparation for restart, along with the installation and shakedown of a new technology. Buffalo Lake Advanced Biofuels will be using new solids separation technology developed by Yield & Capacity Group LLC to process thin and whole stillage through an innovative system that eliminates the need for evaporators and centrifuges. The system will be the focus of a feature article in the upcoming November issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.