Illinois ethanol plant plans to double capacity to 280 MMgy

By Holly Jessen | April 01, 2011

Construction may begin this fall to expand Marquis Energy LLC in Hennepin, Ill. “We’re basically planning to double the size of the plant--for the most part a mirror image of the existing facility,” said Mark Marquis, president of Marquis Energy.

When first built, the ethanol plant produced 100 MMgy, which was later increased to 140 MMgy. The plan, from the very beginning, has been to ultimately double that capacity. Construction started on the plant in 2006 and everything about how the footprint of the plant was laid out was done with the phase II expansion in mind, Marquis said. The only thing that changed was the timeline of when it would happen. “We probably had a couple-year delay, just because the events of the industry in ’08 kind of slowed down the work on the second phase,” he said.

The company is now working on obtaining permits for the expansion—a process that is taking a bit longer than originally anticipated. “Depending on how long that takes, that will determine when we proceed with construction,” he said, adding that about 40 more employees will be hired to handle the additional capacity.

Although the second 140 MMgy of production will be housed in a separate facility, the company considers it all one plant. It’s basically a process of duplicating what’s there now in a parallel configuration to the existing plant. “The fermentation, distillation and energy center will be very similar to what’s there now,” he said.

Marquis Energy is well situated to produce large amounts of ethanol, Marquis told EPM. The company also operates Marquis Marine, a barge terminal. In addition, it is located near the Illinois River with access to the Mississippi River, plus access to the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The area also produces sufficient qualities of corn so Marquis Energy will not need to ship in additional corn—all corn will be purchased locally. He also complimented the plant’s staff for already increasing the plant’s capacity at the existing facility. “Between the production team, and the logistic advantages here, it’s really a unique site that justifies the size of plant,” he said.

One part of the original plan that won’t be put in place, however, is switching the plant’s power from natural gas to coal. Although the company had planned to do that someday, the lower cost of natural gas means the company is no longer interested in coal. Biomass power is another story. “That’s on the back burner, but it is still a viable option for us—to use a feedstock other than natural gas at some point in the future,” he said. “We constructed the plant with that in mind, that we could change feedstock if necessary. Of course that can also open up your opportunities to be an advanced biofuel too.” The company would consider using some type of waste material brought in on barge (the company is located only 90 miles from Chicago) or ag residue sourced from nearby farmers.  

When the project is completed, Marquis Energy’s 280 MMgy will reach the production levels of some Archer Daniels Midland Co. ethanol plants. That company has nine ethanol plants with a combined total capacity of 1,610 MMgy. Six of those plants have capacities between 237 MMgy and 300 MMgy. However, in its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Columbus, Neb., locations, ADM has two plants at the same location with combined capacities of 515 MMgy and 400 MMgy respectively—trumping Marquis Energy’s proposed new size.