Otter Tail Ag plant purchased by GPRE for $55 million

By Holly Jessen | February 21, 2011

Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. was the only bidder for Otter Tail Ag Enterprises LLC, winning approval from bankruptcy court to purchase the 55 MMgy plant for $55 million.  “Today we’ll start moving pretty quickly to close the transaction,” Jim Stark, vice president of investor and media relations told EPM on Feb. 21. “We think we can get it wrapped by the middle to the end of March.”

The Fergus Falls, Minn., plant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court October 2009. The company continued operating while attempting unsuccessfully to raise $12 million through its investors. In October 2010 the company hired Carl Marks Advisory Group LLC to either raise the $12 million or find a buyer for the plant.

GPRE’s bid for Otter Tail Ag was approved in bankruptcy court on Feb. 17. When the purchase is complete GPRE will own nine ethanol plants in Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee, Michigan and Minnesota. The plants have a combined capacity of 712 MMgy.

Construction of the ethanol plant wrapped up three years ago in March. The condition of the plant was part of the attraction for GPRE. “It was a well-built plant and it’s been well taken care of,” Stark said, “so I don’t think there’s any capital expenditures that we are going to need to make right away.”

Much as has been done at other GPRE plants, however, the company will work to increase capacity at the Fergus Falls plant. It will likely take about three to six months for the company to identify what needs to be done to make the plant operate more efficiently, Stark said.

Before the plant’s capacity is increased, however, it plans to add corn oil extraction to the Fergus Falls plant—a technology it has said it will put into place at all its ethanol facilities. Three out of the company’s six original plants now have corn oil extraction in place, Stark said. Its plants in Riga, Mich., and Lakota, Iowa, which GPRE acquired this fall from Global Ethanol LLC, already had the technology in place. That leaves Fergus falls and three other plants on GPRE’s list for corn oil extraction. “We are looking to complete the installation of the other three by the end of the second quarter this year,” he said.

Once the purchase agreement has been finalized it won’t take GPRE long to take over operations in Fergus Falls. The sale closed on Global Ethanol on a Friday and by Saturday GPRE had the two plants integrated into its accounting and purchasing systems. “We can very easily incorporate Otter Tail into that same process,” he said.

Although this is an asset purchase, the company expects to hire on existing employees, much as it did when it purchased the GPRE plants in Ord, Neb., and Central City, Neb., out of bankruptcy. “All the employees of the plant should just move over to being employees of Green Plains,” Stark said. “We don’t foresee any issues with that.”