Pa. ethanol plant restarts in midst of widespread drought

By Holly Jessen | August 07, 2012

Pennsylvania Grain Processing LLC, a 110 MMgy ethanol plant that sat idle for about a year, has resumed operations. “We started making ethanol the 16th of July and we have been running since,” said Eric Meeuwsen, general manager of the plant. “We’re working our way toward full capacity…We’re right around 90 percent.”

The $270 million facility was purchased for $9.35 million at auction this spring. The former Bionol Clearfield facility began operations in early 2010 and went into hot idle in June 2011 when the company applied for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The new owner, Pennsylvania Grain Processing, is an affiliate of Zeeland Farm Services Inc. The agricultural and transportation business also has a subsidiary known as Nebraska Corn Processing LLC, a 44 MMgy ethanol plant located in Cambridge, Neb.

The Clearfield, Pa., plant started taking in corn at the end of June, well after the drought worries began. Still, Meeuswen believes the ethanol plant will still have access to a good supply of corn, as the corn crop in that area is looking pretty good. “It hasn’t been as dry in the eastern half of Ohio and Pennsylvania,” he said.

So far, the company has hired about 60 people, 45 who were working at the plant when it was purchased and had remained on site through the bankruptcy proceedings. The additional employees hired include truck drivers, accounting staff and corn, ethanol and distillers grains merchandisers. “They had no onsite merchandising,” he said. “The previous company hired all of that out, where as we do all our own.”

The plant had been well cared for and didn’t require much updating during the restarting process. “We’ve simply made operational improvements to logistics,” he said. “The loading of the ethanol and the unloading of the corn and distillers was really slow the way the plant was laid out so we have corrected a lot of that type stuff.”