VeraSun Begins Construction of Second-Largest Ethanol Plant

Sat January 27, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Dirk Lammers - ASSOCIATED PRESS



SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) VeraSun Energy Corp., the nation’s second-largest ethanol producer, said Nov. 30 it has started construction on an ethanol plant near Welcome, Minn.

The biorefinery, which will be the Brookings-based company’s fifth, will be able to produce 110 million gal. (41 million L) of ethanol each year and process more than 39 million bushels of corn annually. It also will yield 350,000 tons (317,514 t) of dried distillers grains, a byproduct of the ethanol process used as an animal feed ingredient.

Construction is expected to take approximately 16 months, and initial work at the 300-acre (131.4 ha) site will include backfilling and building access roads. Bulldozers have already started excavating dirt, said Paul Caudill, VeraSun’s senior vice president of operations.

The site’s water supply posed some challenges, so VeraSun decided to build a zero-discharge facility, meaning no water will be emitted other than evaporation from the plant’s cooling towers, Caudill said.

“It’s a recycle system we’ll be using, so it’s a unique design,” he said.

The plant will employ approximately 50 workers.

VeraSun had announced it has started building an ethanol plant of similar capacity in the northwest Iowa town of Hartley. Both are engineered by ICM Inc. of Colwich, Kan., with Fagen Inc., of Granite Falls, Minn., serving as general contractor.

VeraSun has two ethanol plants in operation – in Aurora near the company’s headquarters and in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Construction of a plant in Charles City, Iowa, is ahead of schedule and should begin operating by the end of the second quarter of 2007, company officials have said.

“The designs are very similar,” Caudill said. “We feel that we’ve got a very good approach with kind of a standardized plant design, although we are getting, of course, generational changes as these plants are being operated.”

VeraSun expects to have all five plants running by the end of the first quarter 2008, which would give the company an annual ethanol production capacity of approximately 560 million gallons.

Caudill said VeraSun looks at available grain supply and rail and highway transportation systems when choosing sites for its ethanol plants.