New Cargill unit developing 4 ethanol plants

New Cargill unit developing 4 ethanol plants

A new Cargill Inc. subsidiary announced plans Monday to build four ethanol plants in the Midwest, each with an annual capacity of 100 million gallons.

The plants will almost triple the ethanol production capacity Cargill directly owns, Cargill spokesman Bill Brady said. Combined with service agreements Cargill has with independently owned ethanol plants, they’ll give Cargill a hand in close to 1 billion gallons worth of annual production capacity, he said.

The wholly owned Cargill subsidiary, Emerald Renewable Energy LLC, is considering several potential sites in the corn belt and hopes to name some soon, Brady said. Privately held Cargill — which owns several plants in Iowa — is not disclosing the size of its planned investment, he said.

Cargill said the plants will each use nearly 40 million bushels of corn per year and create about 40 jobs apiece. Sites under consideration include empty locations and sites near Cargill grain elevators, it said.

Before the announcement, Cargill owned or planned new plants with a total annual capacity of 230 million gallons. Brady said Cargill also has five service agreements with other producers with capacities of about 100 million gallons each.

Cargill has taken a relatively cautious approach to ethanol compared with competitor Archer Daniels Midland Co., the country’s No. 1 producer, and has raised questions about balancing the needs for food versus fuel.

Brady said the new investment does not signal a change in direction for Cargill.

“At the end of the day we’re still a food and agriculture company with an energy component, and not the other way around,” he said.

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