ADM Columbus plant marks official opening

By Holly Jessen | June 10, 2010
Posted July 13, 2010

Although the newest Archer Daniels Midland Co. ethanol plant has been operating for a while, the company recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate start-up. Various ADM employees and state government officials attended the July 9 event in Columbus, Neb.

The 300 MMgy dry mill is co-located with an existing ADM wet mill the company acquired from Minnesota Corn Processors, LLC in 2002. That plant has a capacity of 100 MMgy. The company initially planned for 275 MMgy, but discovered during construction and commissioning that process enhancements had upped the capacity by 25 MMgy.

Also constructed on the site is a new cogeneration facility that uses steam to power turbines that generate electricity and reduce energy costs. The power facility supplements the existing gas-fired boiler, Beth Chandler, company spokesperson, told EPM. It burns low sulfur, high moisture coal and up to 20 percent biomass. "The coal-fired cogeneration facility provides a cost advantage when natural gas prices are significantly higher," Chandler said.

ADM also operates an Alliance Nutrition facility in Columbus. John Rice, ADM executive vice president, said the ADM Columbus complex gives the company a competitive edge. "Having these operations in the same complex provides us with an advantage, not just in terms of production efficiency, but also in terms of access to our nationwide transportation network, to a ready supply of Nebraska corn, and to a talented work force."

With the dry mill and cogeneration facility completed, ADM added about 150 jobs at the Columbus location. Currently, there are more than 450 employees and 400 contractors working at the site. During peak construction the company provided jobs for about 1,400 contractors.

Once construction is completed on a 300 MMgy dry mill in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ADM will have two ethanol complexes with both a wet mill and a dry mill. The dry mill is expected to begin producing later this year. At that time, ADM will have a total ethanol production capacity of 1.8 billion gallons.

The day of the event, Steve Dewald, Columbus plant manager, told media that having both a wet and dry mill at one site was unique. Building a wet mill is more capital intensive. For a company that wants to produce ethanol only, building a dry mill is more cost effective, he said.

At a wet mill plant, Chandler said, ADM produces 24 products from corn, including sweeteners, starches, fuel ethanol and amino acids. The feedstock is separated into basic components: corn oil; corn fiber, for animal feed; corn gluten, for poultry feed; and corn starch, which is used in the pulp and paper industry as well as to make ethanol and high fructose corn syrup. At a dry mill, corn is ground, combined with water and enzymes and used to produce ethanol and distillers dried grains.

In all, ADM process more than 2.5 million bushels of corn daily. It has wet mills in Cedar Rapids; Clinton, Iowa; Columbus; Decatur, Ill.; and Marshall, Minn. In addition to the dry mill in Columbus, and the one under construction in Cedar Rapids, it also has dry mills in Peoria, Ill., and Walhalla, N.D.