ICM retrofits Indiana ethanol plant for new owners

By Erin Voegele | January 02, 2014

An idle ethanol plant in South Bend, Ind., is expected to resume operations later this year following the completion of retrofit activities that kicked off in December. The 100 MMgy plant was purchased by Noble Americas South Bend Ethanol LLC, a subsidiary of Noble Americas Corp., in mid-2013. ICM Inc. is completing the retrofits.

“The initial retrofit activity is intended to be a starting point to improve ethanol yield, energy efficiencies and facility automation,” said Bill Paulson, director of ICM plant services and general manager of ICM affiliate Energy Management Solutions Inc. Areas targeted by the retrofit include mash slurry, liquefaction, mash cooling, yeast propagation, beer preheat to distillation, piping systems, basic clean-in-place (CIP) system, distillers grains drying system and the distributed control system. “ICM’s oil separation process will also be added to the facility,” Paulson continued.

Once initial improvement activities are complete, Paulson said the current plan is for Energy Management Solutions to commence operations of the plant. “EMS, ICM and Noble America will then evaluate the priorities for additional retrofit activities, which may include more advanced ICM processing technology upgrades,” he continued.

Paulson added that EMS is evaluating all of the plant’s systems that are outside the ICM retrofit activities. “The hard results of these evaluations will dictate the initial required improvements to the facility,” he said, noting the evaluation will include all major equipment, such as boilers, cooling tower systems, water pretreatment, rain infrastructure, tanks, vessels, pumps and piping. According to Paulson, the current retrofit scope of work is expected to be complete by May. However, he indicated that the date could be adjusted if additional items are identified during the maintenance inspection process.

Once the plant is able to resume operations, EMS will operate the facility under a contract with Noble Americas. “Energy Management Solutions will oversee all operating activities of the facility and will be the employers of its staff and is currently in the process of bringing on highly qualified personnel to fulfill that need,” Paulson said. “Only grain procurement and product sale will be completed by other parties.”

The ethanol plant, formerly owned by New Energy Corp., has been idle for more than a year. In November 2012, New Energy ceased ethanol production, citing high corn prices, high ethanol inventories and low gasoline demand.  Shortly after it announced the facility had been idled, New Energy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and began the process to sell off its assets. Two auction liquidators, Maynards Industries and Biditup Auctions Worldwide, purchased the plant at auction on Jan. 31, 2013. Noble Americas South Bend Ethanol LLC purchased the plant from the auctions liquidators in July 2013.