Production to pick up in 09

By Bryan Sims | April 14, 2009
Ethanol production in the U.S. totaled 9.2 billion gallons in 2008; 2 million gallons more than the minimum requirement (9 billion gallons) mandated by the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007, according to the Energy Information Administration. In 2009, the industry is expected to produce 2.1 billion gallons more, for a total of 11.2 billion gallons with 6 MMgy expected to come from advanced biofuel production. As uncertainty looms amid a credit crisis and volatile commodity prices, will the industry be able to achieve this goal in 2009?

Included in this issue is EPM's annual spring ethanol map, which provides a visual snapshot of the state of the industry as of March 12. According to statistics from the map, approximately 10.43 billion gallons of capacity were produced from 169 operating plants in the U.S.; 36 plants were idle, representing 2.17 billion gallons of capacity, and 14 were under construction with a combined capacity of 1.4 billion gallons. Approximately 92 percent of plants (under construction/producing) are using corn as feedstock.

Predictably, Iowa was the leading ethanol producing state with a combined 3 billion gallons of production capacity. Approximately 375 MMgy of capacity was under construction.

Homeland Energy Solutions LLC, a 100 MMgy corn-based ethanol plant in Lawler, Iowa, completed construction in late March in preparation for its corn grind and start-up in the first
week of April, according to a company spokeswoman. The company hired 36 employees for its opening.

Nebraska came in second with a combined capacity of 1.2 billion gallons while Illinois was third with 976 MMgy.

In Kansas, Abengoa Bioenergy Corp. is undergoing an expansion project that will add an additional 88 MMgy of capacity to its existing 25 MMgy Abengoa Bioenergy of Kansas LLC facility in Colwich, Kan. Foundation work is progressing on-site, according to Craig Kramer, project manager. Kramer declined to comment on a target start-up date for the plant, but told EPM that "the project is progressing slowly" and that the company is "constantly evaluating market conditions".

In the Southeast, Range Fuels Inc. is on schedule with the construction of its 10 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant in Soperton, Ga. Once operational, the plant will use wood waste as feedstock and eventually ramp up to 100 MMgy in the second phase of its two-phase construction plan. According to Bill Schafer, senior vice president of business development for Range Fuels, the company intends to have the plant mechanically complete and in commercial production by early 2010. Warehouses and offices are erected. Most of the pipe work is complete, while installation of underground utilities was in progress. Foundation work will begin in April, he said.

"We're about a year behind where we originally thought we'd be," Schafer said. "We hoped to have construction complete by now, but we're glad we held off because we'll have a better chance of being successful."

In Canada, 15 plants were producing a combined capacity of 1.4 billion liters (370 MMgy). Two plants under construction will add a combined 105 MMly (27.7 MMgy) of capacity. One of those plants under construction is Northwest Bio-Energy Ltd., a 25 MMly (6.6 MMgy) plant in Unity, Saskatchewan. The company pushed back its target start-up date from April to June, according to General Manager Bill Fraser. "We're getting closer, but not as fast as we'd like," he said.