Minnesota high school students visit Highwater Ethanol plant

By Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association | April 29, 2016

Close to 70 high school students from Minnesota-based Pipestone Area High School recently visited Highwater Ethanol to get a better understanding of how clean Minnesota-grown renewable energy is produced.

During the tour, the students were briefed on the various processes of ethanol production at Highwater Ethanol as well as potential career opportunities in the ethanol industry.

"By hosting students at our facility for tours, it is our goal to have them learn about the agriculture industry, ethanol industry and how important these two industries are in everyone's life.

"The students were also briefed on the skills required to work at an ethanol facility. They were able to watch and learn from our employees. Our goal was to leave the students with a positive impression of the ethanol industry and the use of ethanol in our transportation fuels," said Brian Kletscher, CEO of Highwater Ethanol.

The students, from grades 11 to 12, toured Highwater Ethanol's administrative office, water treatment process, incoming grain grading and handling, ethanol loadout, ethanol process facility and energy center.

The tour was organized by the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, a non-profit trade organization that represents the ethanol industry in Minnesota. Highwater Ethanol is a member of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association.

"We organize these tours to show students how a homegrown renewable ingredient is converted into a clean fuel that continues to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions," said Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association.

Highwater Ethanol began operations in Lamberton in August 2009. It produced 59.42 million gallons of ethanol in 2015 and currently has 41 full-time employees.

Kletscher said ethanol plants employ a wide variety of professionals. For the business operations side, professionals with skills in business administration, finance, accounting, human resources and agriculture economics are required.

For facility operations, he said skills required include bio-systems engineering, environmental engineering, chemistry, knowledge in computer systems, renewable energy technology, boiler operations, water treatment, mechanical experience, corn grading as well as welding and master electrician experience.

"We have also trained employees at our site to acquire the skills to perform their job. Most important is to have a positive attitude and be able to work with other people," Kletscher said.

Richard Schroyer, a biology teacher at Pipestone Area High School, accompanied his students during the tour.

"I think it is very important to expose students to alternative energy resources, especially the ones right in our own backyards," he said.

Schroyer added his students have learned about alternative energy sources and conducted labs on biofuel enzymes.