Dakota Spirit AgEnergy completes commissioning

By Holly Jessen | July 24, 2015

A press conference and plant tour was held at the 65 MMgy Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant in Spiritwood, North Dakota, marking the facility reaching its full commercialization phase. It’s the first corn-ethanol plant to be built in the U.S. in more than five years.

Gregory Ridderbusch, president of Midwest AgEnergy Group, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, and Katie Andersen, mayor of nearby Jamestown, were among those that spoke under a white tent pitched in a parking lot between the steam plant and the ethanol plant. In addition, those gathered for the event heard from representatives from the offices of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who spoke on their behalf because they were unable to make it. Hoeven, Heitkamp and Cramer unexpectedly had to remain in Washington, D.C., to work on the highway bill.

The mayor of Jamestown, N.D., whom Ridderbusch said was a good example of the collaboration and partnerships so important for completing the project, spoke about the three definitions of renewable—something that can be continued, something that isn’t depleted with use and something that can be repeated. These definitions are reflected in the ethanol plant’s impact on the local community, she said, mentioning every paycheck paid to employees and every bushel of corn purchased at the plant. “Thank you for your investment in Jamestown and Stutsman County and thank you for investing in all things renewable,” she said.

Ridderbusch described the plant as unique, pointing to the fact that process steam is purchased from Great River Energy’s nearby Spiritwood Station. Midwest AgEnergy Group first used that concept at the Blue Flint Ethanol plant located near Underwood, N.D.

Dakota Sprit AgEnergy purchases 23 million bushels of corn annually from area farmers. The 65 MMgy of ethanol it produces in a year is equal to about 20 percent of North Dakota’s annual fuel demand. The plant also produces 6,900 tons of distillers corn oil and 198,000 tons of distillers grains, said Jeff Zueger, chief operating officer of Midwest AgEnergy Group.

After a follow up question from a reporter, Ridderbusch indicated that the company’s “job one” is to operate the corn-ethanol facility it just started up. Having said that, early plans to also build a cellulosic ethanol production facility at this location aren’t totally off the table. “There is still the possibility here of putting on a cellulosic add on,” he said.