Minnesota plant getting ready to restart

By Holly Jessen | August 27, 2010
Posted Sept. 10, 2010

Twenty employees have now been hired to work at the Denco II LLC plant in Morris, Minn.ómany of whom are returning workers from before the plant shut down. The company plans to hire another 10 workers and restart ethanol production by Oct. 1, Mick Miller, general manager told EPM. "We are actively looking for the remaining team members and we hope to be fully staffed in the next couple weeks," he said.

The 24 MMgy plant has been in cold idle for 20 months. The plant was purchased by a group of local investors, many of them local farmers, in late August. "We're extremely excited about having an opportunity to work with local investors to bring this plant up from a restart standpoint," he said, adding that the ethanol plant will be good for the local economy and the environment. "It's good for the local producers, the whole nine yards."

Miller is a familiar face to many in Morris. He worked there previously as plant manager from 1999 until 2005, when he left to work at Red Tail Energy LLC in Richardton, N.D. He's a partner with Energetics, a company co-founded in 2007 by Mitch Miller and Jason Jerke. The company is now a shareholder in the plant and will operate it.

Employees are working on full mechanical inspections and plan to do water trials soon, Mick Miller said. No big expenditures are expected to get the plant in working order. "We do have plans to make facility improvements as we go," he said, "but for right now the plant is in really good condition, and ready for start up."

The plant has gone through many changes in the past 10 years. Morris Ag Energy Inc., was purchased in 1999 by Diversified Energy Company LLC, known as Denco. The company then upgraded the plant from 7 MMgy to 17 MMgy. In January 2006 the plant was purchased by Big Island Grain LLC, an Australian company, which kept the Denco name.

Although it's unfortunate that the ethanol industry has gone through some difficult financial times, Mick Miller said, things have been looking up lately. The flip side of plants shutting down is that it has created opportunities, like this one, for other groups to come in and restart the facilities. "It's just exciting to be part of it," he said.

Blaine Hill, city manager in Morris, a town of 5,200, said he's happy to hear the Denco plant will be restarting. "Anytime you lose jobs it's not a good deal, it will be nice to have people back out there, working," he told EPM. "Personally, I think it's a great idea, using local recourses to produce a renewable fuel."