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Superior Ethanol holds open house

By Staff | Mar 4, 2008

Superior Ethanol held an open house Saturday at the Estherville Lincoln Central High School cafeteria to answer questions about the 50-million-gallon ethanol plant at Superior. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

As the merger between Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc., and Great Lakes Cooperative becomes final, GPRE held an open house for its Superior Ethanol plant Saturday at the Estherville Lincoln Central High School cafeteria.

Company representatives were on hand to answer questions on all aspects of the 50-million-gallon ethanol plant that will buy 18.5 million bushels of corn annually from producers from 35-40 miles of the plant. The Superior plant will have an annual payroll, paying $15 an hour for nonskilled labor.

Consulting engineer Dan Nebelsick addressed the question of the siting of the discharge for the water from the cooling towers. He said the site was chosen to avoid environmental problems that could have resulted by going directly east of the plant where the discharge pipe could have disrupted the Ringham Habitat or Anderson Prairie areas.

“From an environmental sensitivity standpoint we just felt it was better to go north,” Nebelsick said.

Scott Flynn, project manager, said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources sets the environmental standards for the cooling tower water. Those standards limit water temperatures and salinity to prevent any harm to wildlife. Both the DNR and the plant will monitor the discharge.

With 200 construction workers on the project and 35 permanent employees, the Superior Ethanol plant has already had a significant impact on the local economy. Tod Smith, production manager, said the plant should begin production this spring.

With the merger with Great Lakes Cooperative, 60 percent of Green Plains Renewable Energy’s assets will be in the region. The remaining 40 percent will comprise the Shenandoah plant which is already in production.

Kevin Hartkemeyer, general manager of Great Lakes Cooperative, is very hopeful that the new partnership with GPRE will strengthen the corn market for area farmers.

“It will certainly strengthen it,” Hartkemeyer said. “There will be constant demand.” That demand will result in the strong, more stable basis for corn prices.

Hartkemeyer said co-op members seem pleased with the merger.

“Because it was such an overwhelming vote, everybody feels better about it,” he said.

Among the improvements planned would be a new grain bin at Gruver as soon as spring thaws allow construction. Great Lakes Cooperative will be known as Green Plains Grain Company once the merger closes.

Hartkemeyer sees an advantage to producers since Green Plains is a publicly traded company that can give investor liquidity. He said co-products from ethanol production, such as wet and dry distillers grains for cattle feeding, will be a big part of the farm supply side of the business.

GPRE Board Member Brian Peterson of Lawton said every bushel of corn processed will produce 16.8 pounds of dry distillers grains. Since it costs money to dry and ship DDGs, though, Peterson said markets for wet cake will be sought out locally.

Peterson said the percentage of wet and dry grains will be driven by the market.

General Manager Doug Archer said workers receive company training. He looks forward to working with the biomass program at Iowa Lakes Community College to develop internships and hire employees.

“That will be a perfect seed program for us,” Archer said.