Red River Energy restarts operations, plans upgrades

By Erin Voegele | September 10, 2014

Red River Energy LLC’s ethanol plant in Rosholt, South Dakota, is once again operating after sitting idle for approximately 18 months. As production continues, the company plans to increase capacity and complete several improvements over the next two years.

Red River Energy, the third owner of the Rosholt plant, purchased the facility in August 2011. Originally built by Tri-State Corn Processors more than a decade ago, the plant was retrofitted by ICM in 2006. The 25 MMgy facility was later operated under the name North Country Ethanol before being sold at auction in 2011. According to Rick Serie, general manager of Red River Energy, the current ownership operated the plant from December 2011 through January 2013 before idling the plant due to tight margins. With improved margins and a near-record corn harvest expected this fall, the decision was made to restart the plant. 

“We’ve got the plant operating,” Serie said, noting that restarting the plant after it was idle for 18 months was not an easy task. To prepare for operations, the entire plant was cleaned, tested and conditioned. The valves probably presented the most significant challenge, Serie said. The valving itself was old, he said, and after sitting idle for so long, had to be replaced.

Serie credits ICM with getting the plant back online so quickly. ICM has been invaluable in getting the plant started and troubleshooting, he said. Without ICM’s assistance, Serie said it likely would have taken several additional months to bring the plant back online. With production now underway, Serie said the plant will be watched very closely and operated at slightly below capacity as efforts continue to look for bottlenecks and other issues that must be addressed.

ICM will continue to have a presence at the plant. The company’s subsidiary, Energy Management Solutions Inc., recently signed a plant management agreement with Red River Energy. ICM will also be engaging in upgrade and expansion activities at the facility.

According to Serie, the plant’s owners and ICM are working on plans to improve and retrofit the facility. Those changes will likely take place incrementally over the next two years as the plant continues to operate.

The most significant change is that production capacity will be increased from 25 MMgy to 40 MMgy. The facility is already permitted for that level of production, Serie added, which means a significant obstacle to expansion has already been overcome.

Additional efforts will focus on improving logistics. When originally designed and built, little attention was paid to logistics, Serie said. Specifically, the facility currently has very limited onsite storage for corn, ethanol, and distillers grains. Activities are already underway to install an additional 500,000 bushels of corn storage, which will enable the facility to store approximately 25 days worth of feedstock on site. Additional improvement plans call for expanded ethanol storage, and expanded distillers grain storage. Rail siding will also be expanded, Serie said, adding that the facility will also likely expand distillers grains loading capabilities. Currently, distillers grains must be shipped to a local grain elevator to be transferred to railcars.