Emmetsburg picked as site for ethanol plant that will use corn waste

Emmetsburg picked as site for ethanol plant that will use corn waste

A project announced Monday would make Emmetsburg the home of the first commercial-scale ethanol plant in the United States to use corn waste — stalks, leaves and cobs — as the raw material to make fuel.

The $200 million project is headed by Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, S.D., which already operates six ethanol plants in the state. The company plans to overhaul its existing plant in Emmetsburg over the next three years to go from a standard corn-kernel-based refinery to one that can extract cellulose from all parts of the corn plant.

“We believe that today’s announcement is the beginning of a new era in ethanol production,” said company CEO Jeff Broin, at a Statehouse news conference with Gov. Tom Vilsack and Gov.-elect Chet Culver.

The plant will produce 125 million gallons of ethanol per year and 220,000 tons of byproducts that will be sold as animal feed.

“This is going to be a real shot in the arm for a really important part of the state,” Culver said.

Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Lang said the ethanol process in Emmetsburg is important because it creates a new cash crop, which dramatically increases the income potential for corn producers.

“I think this is the first step of providing energy from what we consider waste,” he said.

According to the company, the technology used at the plant will yield 27 percent more ethanol from an acre of corn and require 83 percent less power to produce compared to typical refinery.

There are many logistical questions about how the company will gather the raw material and transport it. Broin said details would be forthcoming about those issues.

He estimates that it will take up to 10 years for the plant to sell fuel at competitive prices.

An essential element of the financing is a federal grant program that could give up to $80 million. The company has not yet been approved for the grant.

If the project is the beginning of a trend in ethanol production, Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, expects more farmers to grow only corn, rather than alternate between corn and soybeans.

He said the process of removing corn stalks from fields will need to leave about a third of the stalks to prevent erosion.

Kibbie, 77, has farmed in Emmetsburg since the 1940s. He said the potential of new ethanol technology could be bigger than any other advancement he’s experienced.

“It’s mind-boggling to see this,” he said.

The other Broin Companies-affiliated refineries in Iowa are Frontier Ethanol in Gowrie, Horizon Ethanol in Jewell, Iowa Ethanol in Hanlontown, Otter Greek Ethanol in Ashton, Tall Corn Ethanol in Coon Rapids and a plant under construction in Corning.

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