2 Kansas ethanol plants close

Source: By Madeline Anderson, KAKE • Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015

COLWICH, KAN. — Two ethanol plants in KAKEland are closing their doors.

International company Abengoa Bioenergy has suspended operation indefinitely in Colwich and Hugoton.

Dozens of people are now without work but community leaders in Colwich say the bigger impact will be on the city’s budget.

Once a site where milo was used to manufacture ethanol, the Abengoa plant in Colwich now sits vacant.

“They closed down about two years ago because… milo wasn’t growing that time of the year because of a drought. So they shut down for a couple years and went back online about a year and a half ago. Recently, they filed for bankruptcy protection,” said Colwich Mayor Terry Spexarth.

Spexarth says the plant has been around for 30 years, and owned by Abengoa for the past 15. He believes low gas prices may be to blame for these latest financial problems.

“Gasoline is down to $1.65 the other day,” Spexarth said. “I don’t think they can compete with gasoline being that cheap.”

A former employee says between 30 and 45 people were laid off last Tuesday, including management.

While most of the workers came from Wichita, the mayor says the city will still take a big hit.

“They pay around $50,000-60,000 a year in property taxes,” Spexarth said. “The fees we get off of them for using electricity and gas will have a big impact. The water we were selling them at one time, they were making close to one-third of one of our water payments that we had to pay off our debt.”

Despite the revenue loss, Spexarth says residents don’t have to worry about their water bills going up.

KAKEnews left messages with Abengoa but have not heard back.

Laid off workers are hoping the plant reopens in the spring.

International company Abengoa Bioenergy has suspended operation indefinitely in Colwich and Hugoton.