Red River Biorefinery gearing up for production

By Matt Thompson | December 13, 2019

According to Keshav Rajpal, BioMass Solution principal, the industry’s newest ethanol plant - Red River Biorefinery - is still on track to start operations at the beginning of the year. The plant, developed by BioMass Solution, is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and uses feedstocks uncommon in the U.S. ethanol industry: sugar beet tailings and potato processing waste. “We’re not using any purpose-grown crops for this,” Rajpal said. “There's nothing there's nothing wrong with that, it's just our model is different.” Rajpal said the plant can also process waste from pasta manufacturing, but that feedstock is a minimal part of the mix.

Rajpal said the 16.5 MMgy plant is set to begin receiving feedstock this week. He said the sugar beet and potato industries suffered the same growing season difficulties corn farmers saw, which will have some impact on the feedstock availability. But, he added, that dealing with those issues will be easier during startup as opposed to dealing with them when the plant is running at it’s capacity, adding that the plant will go through a ramp-up phase before it operates at its full capacity.

The plant is designed to generate D3 and D5 renewable identification numbers (RINS) and sell its product into the California market to take advantage of the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Rajpal says the preliminary work to get the plant’s ethanol has been completed, although there will be further work to do following startup.

Because of the different feedstock, and the focus on minimizing the plant’s CI score, Rajpal says the plant won’t generate coproducts like a corn ethanol plant does. “We’re not drying anything because of the carbon associated with that and we don’t have oil in our feedstock,” Rajpal said. The waste generated by the facility is used for animal feed.

The plant’s location is perfectly situated to take advantage of a strong sugar beet and potato growing operations in the state and surrounding area. And he says, the region is such an attractive one for a plant like Red River Biorefinery, there may be opportunities for other plants in the region. “We have a few more on the board for us to do,” Rajpal said. “We think there’s an opportunity for us to do a couple more of these around here.”