Dakota Spirit AgEnergy on track for Q2 startup

By Susanne Retka Schill | December 26, 2014

Construction at the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy LLC corn ethanol plant in Spiritwood, North Dakota, is progressing on schedule. “We’re still planning for commissioning and startup in the second quarter,” reported Jeff Zueger, chief operating officer of Midwest AgEnergy Group, the project developer and owner of BlueFlint Ethanol LLC in Underwood, North Dakota.

All buildings and major equipment are in place at the 65 MMgy facility, he said, and work continues on the piping, electrical and instrumentation. “They’re tying the major pieces of equipment together,” Zueger said. “We will move into the office space in mid-January; that will be another milestone for us.” With the plant manager hired, the teams is making progress in filling the 38 positions. “We’ve had really good response for the positions we’ve posted,” Zueger said.  

The company has been receiving corn at its remote grain handling facility about 20 miles north of Spirtwood, and expects to commission the grain handling system located alongside the ethanol plant in Q1 to begin receiving grain there prior to the Q2 startup. Dakota Spirit has 1.7 million bushels of corn storage onsite, which includes two large bins and a small wet bin to be used for temporary storage.  “We anticipate buying a lot of corn directly from farmers,” Zueger explained, which, with North Dakota’s short growing season, often means corn is harvested at higher moistures. The grain system at Dakota Spirit includes drying capacity. 

Another project yet to be completed is to tie the rail access into the BNSF line. The loop track itself is completed, as well as the new road into the facility and all utilities are in place. In addition Great River Energy, the Minnesota-based electric cooperative that is the majority owner of Midwest AgEnergy and its two ethanol plants, brought its Spiritwood Station online this fall. The 99 megawatt combined-heat-and-power plant is supplying steam to the nearby Cargill Malt facility and will supply all of the process heat for Dakota Spirit.

The North Dakota corn ethanol plant has a number of unique characteristics, described in a feature article earlier this year in Ethanol Producer Magazine. It is the first corn ethanol plant to be built since the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required new corn-based plants to meet a 20 percent greenhouse gas reduction requirement—a process that took 19 months to get approved through the U.S. EPA.