Aventine restarting 45 MMgy plant after fermentation improvements

By Holly Jessen | August 03, 2011

Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc. is currently in the process of restarting its 45 MMgy ethanol plant located in Aurora, Neb. The company also said it is working to bring another plant to full capacity and wants to restart an idled plant it purchased in 2010.

Aventine/Nebraska Energy LLC, known internally by the company as Aurora East, is co-located with the 110 MMgy Aventine Renewable Energy-Aurora West LLC, at which construction was completed this spring. In April the Nebraska Energy plant was shut down temporarily to make improvements to the plant’s fermentation process, according to U.S. Security and Exchange Commission filings. At that time the company had hoped to have the work completed by the third week of May, and expected to evaluate the margin environment before restarting the plant. The capacity of the plant has not changed, said according to Jennifer Borgen, Aventine’s director of communications.

Aventine, which emerged from bankruptcy in early 2010, held a grand opening for its Mount Vernon, Ind., ethanol plant in early April and had been producing ethanol since first grind in December 2010. Although construction is completed at the Aurora West plant, production has yet to begin. The company had learned some things with the start up of the Mount Vernon plant and wanted to apply that knowledge to the Aurora plant, Borgan said in June, adding recently that she didn’t have any new information about when that plant would start up.

The company also recently announced it promoted its chief financial officer. John Castle is now the company’s executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, assuming responsibility for both finance and business functions of the business. "Castle's CFO expertise at Aventine has proven his ability to manage many moving parts through the company's transition,” said Aventine's CEO, Thomas Manuel. “He has managed complicated financial details in extremely difficult circumstances and John now will apply his leadership skills to the manufacturing side of our business with the goal being to maximize production at all plants.”

Castle is looking first to the two 110 MMgy plants the company restarted construction on after emerging from bankruptcy. "Our operational focus is to implement identified changes to bring the Mount Vernon plant closer to full capacity,” he said. “Resolving new plant production issues will help us move forward with the start-up of the Aurora West facility, an identical twin of the Mount Vernon facility.”

In addition, the company plans to restart the 38 MMgy Riverland Biofuels plant it purchased in 2010 for $16.5 million. Aventine is working through the mechanical systems of the idled plant in preparation for restart, Castle said. That ethanol plant started out as a farmer co-op called Central Illinois Energy, which filed for bankruptcy in 2007 before construction was even completed. It was then revived as Riverland Biofuels, with production happening intermittently between December 2008 and March 2010.

In all, Aventine owns five plants with a potential total capacity of 463 MMgy. The fifth plant is a 160 MMgy plant located in Pekin, Ill.