Abengoa idles Illinois plant for maintenance

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 03, 2012

Abengoa Bioenergy of Illinois LLC, an 88 MMgy corn ethanol plant in Madison, Ill., is being temporarily idled for maintenance. “This is just a situation where we have some maintenance that had to be done,” said Chris Standlee, executive vice president for Abengoa Bioenergy, a division of Spain-based Abengoa SA which owns six plants in the U.S.

A media outlet took the occasion of the Abengoa shutdown in Illinois to talk about the tight margins in the ethanol industry and mentioned other plants that have been idled. The timing of the maintenance shutdown could have been for any time, Standlee said. “If you’re going to do it, it makes sense to do it now when margins are so tight. We don’t have a specific date for when we’ll start up again, but we don’t expect it to be long term.”

Portions of Illinois’ corn crop were hard hit by this summer’s drought, but Standlee said that wasn’t a factor in the decision regarding the maintenance shutdown.

USDA’s Monday Crop Progress report put Illinois’ corn harvest at 71 percent complete, compared with 54 percent just a week ago and the average of 33 percent. Across the 18 states tracked, the harvest is 54 percent complete, compared to a 20 percent average completion by this date.

The corn condition puts 42 percent of Illinois’ crop in very poor condition, the lowest category, 33 percent poor, 18 percent fair and 7 percent good. Indiana’s corn crop was slightly better with 35 percent in very poor condition, 31 percent poor, 23 fair, 10 percent good, and 1 percent excellent. In the heart of the Corn Belt, Ohio is next with 22 percent very poor, 29 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 15 percent good and 1 percent excellent. Nebraska, on the western edge but with substantial irrigated acres, had 22 percent very poor, 20 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 27 percent good and 5 percent excellent. Michigan and South Dakota crop condition ratings were slightly better, Iowa and Wisconsin a bit better yet.

The 18-state average, which includes a number of southern states impacted by heat and drought, 26 percent of the corn crop was rated very poor, 24 percent poor, 25 percent fair, 21 percent good and 3 percent excellent. That compares with last year’s ratings which were 7 percent, 13 percent, 28 percent, 41 percent and 11percent, respectively.