2002 Review-Plant Profiles

In a message introducing our magazine to the industry, we lamented, "EPM cannot emphasize enough how important plant profiles are to us - to be close to the process and shake hands with the people who operate the systems is a vital connection to the personalities, places and products that drive this industry. These visits remind us why we have chosen to be part of. . . "the good fight." Our readers also gain insight that enables them to become better at what they do - better researchers and technology providers, and more efficient policy makers." That message still sums up the way the EPM staff feels about profiling ethanol plants - and the people who run, manage, and own them. In fact, Plant Profiles are, and will continue to be, a vital component of our editorial mission. EPM thanks all those who allowed us access to their facilities to make these profiles come to life in 2002.
By | December 01, 2002
Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company (CVEC)
Our first profile of a commercial ethanol plant in 2002 was February's survey of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company in Benson, Minn.

At the time of our profile, the cooperative had just signed 240 new investors and had raised 45 percent of the equity it needed to double its nameplate capacity from 20 mmgy to 40 mmgy.

Like most of our feature articles, our profile of CVEC was as much about people as it was about an ethanol plant.

"CVEC General Manager Bill Lee said the cooperative's 18-person board has a unique vision for CVEC and believes the time to invest in the plant's future is now, while the industry is expanding at a record pace," EPM reported. "Certainly, CVEC is among the nation's most progressive dry-mill ethanol plants. While last year's ideal grind margin (high ethanol prices coupled with low corn prices) had the greatest impact on CVEC's profitability, the cumulative effect of continued improvements in operational efficiency - new records in production, yield, and energy efficiency - was significant to the plant's bottom line as well."

When asked what it took to survive in the ethanol business, Lee said, "Together, we have prepared CVEC both offensively and defensively. A good company readies its offense in good times and takes a strong, defensive position when markets aren't so favorable. An ethanol plant must be able to walk through the valleys of pain and survive. We want CVEC to be strong enough, and diversified enough, to do that."

U.S. Energy Partners
"The unparalleled synergy that has made U.S. Energy Partners, LLC a unique and immediately successful ethanol production facility can be described as half hard work and half coincidence," EPM reported in May.

Indeed, it was a catastrophic event that made the Russell, Kan. plant's most prominent synergy a reality. An explosion in 2001 at the city's power plant - followed by a major fire downtown - left the city with little choice but to salvage what was left of the existing facility and build an additional power plant in a new industrial park on the edge of town, adjacent to U.S. Energy Partners - the nation's first pure milo-to-ethanol

Northeast Missouri Grain (NEMO)
When EPM profiled Northeast Missouri Grain (NEMO), Jeff Broin, CEO of Broin Companies, told us that "keeping an ethanol plant running at peak capacity during an expansion is like remodeling your home without moving out."

That's exactly what had begun just before EPM visited the plant in April. Located four miles east of Macon, Mo., NEMO was a 15 mmgy nameplate plant producing in the range of 20 to 22 mmgy annually. Today, the plant is undergoing an expansion to effectively double its capacity to 36 mmgy. When finished in the late spring or early summer of 2003, Broin said, it is extremely likely that the plant will quickly reach upwards of 40 mmgy. General Manager Steve Burnett told EPM that NEMO is the southern most ethanol plant in the Broin system, making one of the biggest challenges at the facility operating in the high heat and humidity of summer.

"These dry mill plants love cold weather - they do well in the cold," Burnett told us. "Yet, we manage to do very well in our location by maintaining an extra large chiller to remove heat from the liquid stream."

When the expansion is complete, Burnett told us, NEMO will have added seven or eight new employees (including a CO2 plant manager) to the 32 men and women employed at the plant at the time of our interview.

"We are confident moving forward with this expansion, and we look forward to getting the job done," Broin told EPM.

plant co-located with an existing wheat gluten plant. ICM, Inc. President and CEO Dave Vander Griend told us the arrangement was both "fortunate" and "synergistic" because both U.S. Energy Partners and the city of Russell benefits from the partnership. "The city benefits by producing energy at a low rate and selling steam and stack gases to the plant, and U.S. Energy Partners benefits from purchasing this energy at a very reasonable rate. It is a true cogeneration, cost-sharing endeavor," Vander Griend told EPM.

Adkins Energy
"Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the results," EPM reported in June when we caught up with Adkins Energy. The new 40 mmgy Lena, Illinois plant was reaching the final phases of construction, and its 34-person staff was rapidly preparing the facility to begin grinding corn at the time of our interview. The facility was buzzing with anticipation.

"Once we grind corn, I think we'll finally feel like part of the ethanol industry," said Adkins Energy General Manager Todd Block. "It's a very exciting time for all of us."

For Block and others involved in the Adkins Energy project since its inception seven years ago, the work has been a true test of determination, will and character. Strong partnerships saved the project from the brink. Along with the local cooperative, Memphis-based design/build contractor Lurgi PSI oversaw all aspects of constructing the ethanol plant and also invested equity in the project, EPM reported. ICM provided the process-design and trained employees.

Northern Lights Ethanol
"Our relationship with the power plant is one of the things that makes this ethanol project unique and instantly successful," Northern Lights General Manager Blaine Gomer told EPM in August. "If you look back at the ethanol industry, you'll see that ethanol plants strategically built near power plants have done very well. It's not uncommon for all kinds of industries to spring up around power plants such as this."

Gomer was referring to the Big Stone Power Plant co-located with the 40 mmgy ethanol facility near Big Stone City, S.D. The power plant pipes 100,000 pounds of steam an hour to Northern Lights, a Broin Companies plant. The steam is purchased at a price cheaper than what could be produced by their own natural gas boilers.

"It's a few extra scoops of coal for them," joked Northern Lights Ethanol, LLC Board President Del Strasser, one of the area farmers that helped get the project rolling three years ago.

Strasser told EPM the benefits of co-locating with the Big Stone Power Plant are numerous. In addition to steam, the power plant brings to the table existing rail service, water, county roads, access to utilities and fire protection.

ACE Ethanol
ACE Ethanol General Manager Terry Kulesa may have said it best when he described the story of Wisconsin's first ethanol plant as a chronicle of "sweat and equity," we reported in September.

ACE Ethanol, LLC, a 15 mmgy dry mill located on the outskirts of Stanley, Wis., is the realization of years of ambition and toil for growers and investors in the Badger State, where the facility represents a milestone in value-added ag processing. Completed in early summer, the plant was brought online in June, a year from the start of its construction in 2001. According to its management team, the plant started up smoothly, producing the first shipments of Wisconsin-produced ethanol to market in early July.

Glacial Lakes Ethanol
In October, Project Manager Aaron Fagen, of Fagen, Inc., credited his company's timely completion of Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC to "good people and good weather," two factors, he said, that helped bring the Watertown, S.D. plant online ahead of schedule and under budget.

Fagen, Inc., of Granite Falls, Minn., completed Glacial Lakes Energy in just 13 months, starting in July 2001 and finishing in late August of this year. The plant utilizes an ICM process-design.

Bearing a nameplate capacity of 40 mmgy, the $54 million plant will crank out 40 million gallons of ethanol and 130,000 tons of dried distillers dried grains per year at peak capacity, grinding 15 to 18 million bushels of area corn.

In terms of stack emissions from the plant's two gas-fired rotary drum dryers, the facility has already earned a place among the most environmentally sound ethanol plants in the world, largely due to the installation of a regenerative thermal oxidizer, which almost completely reduces odor and atmospheric emissions while producing steam energy for the plant.