Oregon plant could produce ethanol from wheat

By Matt Thompson | August 29, 2019

Global Partners LP recently filed for a renewal of its air quality permit at its Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery in Clatskanie, Oregon. The permit could allow the plant to use wheat as its feedstock in addition to the more traditional corn.

Catie Kerns, vice president of external communications for Global Partners, said the permit is being finalized by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and that Global Partners “hope[s] to receive the final permit renewal in the coming weeks.”

Ethanol has not been produced at the plant since 2008, and Kerns said there are no immediate plans to do so. “Having the permits in place provides operational flexibility that allows us to respond to market opportunities now, or in the future,” she said. “We continually look for opportunities to restart ethanol production at the facility, thus the need for an active ethanol manufacturing permit.”

However, if production should begin again, the permit would allow it to use wheat as a feedstock. “We chose to add wheat to our permit in order to provide flexibility and the ability to utilize a feedstock that is more readily available in the Northwest,” Kerns said. Most of the same equipment would be used to process the wheat, with some modifications to mill the grain on the front end of the plant. Distillers grains would also be produced, although Kerns said they would be marketed differently than corn-based feed products.

The potential use of wheat is seen as a benefit, because the feedstock is grown locally. “With the facility location at a deep draft dock in the Northwest we see the primary benefit being the ability to utilize a feedstock grown in the Northwest,” Kerns said. “This also lowers the CI [carbon intensity] of the product.”

While Kerns said the company expects the permit renewal to be issued soon, it has faced opposition. The plant is also permitted to handle crude oil, which is the sticking point for those opposed to the permit. They feel that the company intends only to store and ship crude oil. “While we understand the public concern, comments related to crude oil are not appropriate during the renewal of this permit for ethanol manufacturing,” Kerns said. She also said there is ample support for the permit. “For any opposition that is reported, we also have incredible community support,” she said.