Will plant construction pick up in 2009?

By Bryan Sims | March 05, 2009
This issue of EPM contains the sixth edition of the Proposed Ethanol Plant List, starting on page 64. It confirmed what many in the industry already believed: There are fewer proposed ethanol plants, just as there are fewer ethanol plants under construction. Of the 118 proposed projects listed in 2008, two are currently under construction: Highwater Ethanol LLC, a 55 MMgy plant in Lamberton, Minn., and Bionol Clearfield LLC, a 110 MMgy facility in Clearfield, Pa.

According to Highwater Ethanol General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Brian Kletscher, construction is approximately 70 percent complete. Most of the buildings are erected, and construction of the distillers grains area is ongoing. He said he hopes to begin operation in May at full capacity, pending favorable economic factors. "We're evaluating the economics now just like everybody else, but we anticipate we'll be running at full production capacity right away after start-up," he said.

Progress is being made at Bionol Clearfield, as well. Rail excavation for new siding and work on the hammer mills is underway, according to Tom Hoole, director of corporate projects for parent company BioEnergy International. Construction of the plant's energy center, processing building and water treatment system will be the next priority, he said.

The facility will draw 14 megawatts of electricity daily to meet its production requirements, according to Hoole. It will also use 1.5 million gallons of water per day through 40-foot wells and intakes. The plant is being built on the site of a former brick factory, which left the soil contaminated with arsenic. Construction work has helped clean the site, he said.

In other plant construction news, concrete was poured for distillery equipment at Louisiana Green Fuels LLC, a soon-to-be 25 MMgy plant in Lacassine, La., according to spokesman Randal Johnson. The plant will utilize sugarcane, sugarcane bagasse and sweet sorghum as feedstocks. Once operational, the bagasse will be used to cogenerate 7.4 megawatts of electricity annually to power the facility. The plant is expected to come on line later this year. "We anticipate that operation of the ethanol plant will commence with the harvest of the sugarcane in October," Johnson said. "This will allow the sugar syrup diffuser plant to supply the syrup directly to the ethanol plant colocated at the Lacassine Industrial Park."

Meanwhile, Plymouth Energy LLC completed construction of its 50 MMgy corn-based plant in Merrill, Iowa, in early February. The plant began production in preparation for performance testing later that month, according to spokeswoman Lisa Eisma. This is the 172nd U.S. ethanol plant currently on line, bringing combined production capacity to 10.49 billion gallons per year.