Abengoa temporarily shuts down two smallest ethanol plants

By Holly Jessen | December 20, 2011

Abengoa Bioenergy Corp. plans to halt ethanol production at its 30 MMgy plant in Portales, N.M., and its 25 MMgy plant in Colwich, Kan. “This is not a permanent plant closure, but a temporary production shutdown due to current depressed market conditions,” Christopher Standlee, executive vice president of Abengoa told EPM.

The two plants, which each employ about 45 people, will stop producing ethanol by the end of the year. The company has a maintenance plan to keep the plants in good condition and ready to restart quickly, as soon as market conditions allow, Standlee said. The feedstock for the Portales plant is sorghum while the Colwich location utilizes both corn and sorghum.

Abengoa has a total of six ethanol plants with a total capacity of 374 MMgy. The list also includes three 88 MMgy plants in Madison, Ill., Mount Vernon, Ind., and Ravenna, Neb., and a 55 MMgy plant in York, Neb. “We have no current plans to alter our production schedules at our four other plants,” he said.

When it shuts down, the Portales plant—the only ethanol plant in New Mexico—will have operated for about the last year. The plant sat idle for two years until it was restarted early in 2011. The company said at the time that the decision to restart had to do with more favorable market conditions and increasing demand. The company also said it anticipated getting a higher value from the ethanol produced there thanks to the plant’s efficient production set up and sorghum feedstock.

Abengoa’s seventh ethanol production facility, a 23 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant Hugoton, Kan., remains under construction, Standlee told EPM. The company announced in September that it had received its PSD Air Quality Construction Permit from Kansas. “[There is] no change at all in the Hugoton plant schedule,” he said. “We are still on track for a fall 2013 startup.”