Concept to Construction

FROM THE NOVEMBER ISSUE: In the U.S. ethanol industry, three plants are under construction, while a fourth makes its way through the permitting process.
By Lisa Gibson | October 16, 2018

In an industry with more than 200 existing plants, four new projects is a small figure. Greenfield ethanol plant development is in a lull, but three plants are under construction and one is making strides in development, classified as proposed on Ethanol Producer Magazine’s 2018 Fall Fuel Ethanol Plant Map.

A few more companies in the industry have plants they consider proposed and under development, but Ethanol Producer Magazine classifies plants as proposed only if they’ve made progress on financing or permitting in the past 24 months. Details and timelines of the four new ethanol plants are as follows:

Ringneck Energy & Feed 
Under Construction

Ringneck Energy & Feed was formed in September 2014 after it was determined that Onida, South Dakota, had sufficient infrastructure to support the 80 MMgy plant, says Ringneck CEO Walter Wendland. A grain origination study was completed that November, and more than $86 million in equity was raised for the $151 million project. Construction began in 2017 and the plant is expected to begin operation in January, Wendland says. Ringneck Energy will use about 28.5 million bushels of corn and milo per year.

Wendland is an experienced ethanol plant developer, this being the fifth plant with which he’s been involved. “It took a tremendous amount of time and teamwork from my wife, our local board members, our industrial partners like Ron Fagen, Fagen Inc., ICM, Sukup Manufacturing, and our ethanol partners that include Dakota Ethanol (Wentworth, South Dakota), Chippewa Valley Ethanol Cooperative (Benson, Minnesota), Granite Falls Energy and Oahe Grain Corp. to get this project to the finish line. It was our love for agriculture and the ethanol industry that kept us all going when times got tough.”

Wendland says his main advice to others on plant development is don’t underestimate the time, commitment and cooperation it will take to complete a project.

Red River Biorefinery 
Under Construction

Red River Biorefinery broke ground just outside Grand Forks, North Dakota, in August. The plant will process sugar beet tailings, as well as potato and pasta processing waste from the region. Developed by BioMass Solution with technology from Biotechnika, the plant will use up to 500,000 tons annually of process wastes, producing 16.5 MMgy of ethanol and generating D3 and D5 renewable identification numbers (RINs).  The Biotechnika process is used at a sugar beet-to-ethanol plant in Poland. While the feedstock is innovative in the U.S., it’s used to produce 21 percent of the ethanol in the European Union, says Tomasz Kapela, owner of Biotechnika.

BioMass Solution has a long-term contract with area sugar beet cooperative American Crystal Sugar Co., as well as with partners Simplot, a potato processor in Grand Forks, and Philadelphia Macaroni Co. The plant will operate year-round, as at least one of the three feedstocks will be on hand at all times, says Jacek Chmielewski, BioMass Solution principal. The plant will process all the waste from all three local plants, though pretreatment will vary slightly with each, Kapela says.
The plant is scheduled to start up at the beginning of 2020, selling fuel to the California market and taking advantage of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Element LLC  
Under Construction

A partnership between ICM Inc. and The Andersons, Element LLC is a $175 million project expected to start up in the summer of 2019. The 70 MMgy ethanol plant will use ICM’s Gen 1.5: Grain Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology to produce more than 5 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol. It is being built adjacent to ICM's headquarters in Colwich, Kansas, on the site of the former Abengoa Bioenergy plant.

Development on Element started in fall of 2016, says Chris Mitchell, president of ICM. The majority of the existing plant was demolished in late 2017 and construction started in March of this year, for roughly 18 months of development time from concept to construction. “Overall, our process was relatively smooth and the governmental agencies we were working with were supportive,” Mitchell says. “From the ICM point of view, there were things we were able to do from a planning standpoint relative to the site and some early on design that probably helped us through the permitting process.”

The process included some hurdles, Mitchell says, but nothing unique that other ethanol plants under development wouldn’t encounter. “It’s probably a pretty difficult time to take on development of a greenfield corn ethanol plant.” Still, with the proper team in place and all the details coming together well, ICM and The Andersons are pulling it off.

Poet Biorefining – Shelbyville  

Poet LLC announced in July that it is developing an 80 MMgy ethanol plant in Shelbyville, Indiana, that will process 28 million bushels of corn annually. The project represents an expected $150 million to $160 million capital investment, according to Poet. It will create nearly $3 million in added value for local crops, contribute $2 million to the local community in annual payroll and have a total $200 million local annual economic impact.

Matt Merritt, director of public relations for Poet, says the plant is in the permitting process and a construction and operation timeline has not been established. “We’re excited about the opportunity to partner with farmers, the Shelbyville community and the surrounding area,” Merritt says. “Farm families there need a new market for grain, particularly given the significant economic challenges facing agriculture today. It is a great area with good people who would certainly make this project a success.”


Author: Lisa Gibson
Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine