Aurora ethanol plants sends first unit-train of ethanol south

Source: By Robert Pore, The Grand Island Independent • Posted: Monday, April 27, 2015

AURORA — Aventine Renewable Energy, Inc., announced last week that its first BNSF unit-train shipment of ethanol produced at its two ethanol facilities in Aurora.

On April 19 Aventine’s first unit train pulled out of Aurora heading to Birmingham, Ala., according to the company. The ethanol will be blended in gasoline to enhance octane, reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

“It’s a major milestone in executing unit trains out of Aurora, eliminating obsolete single-car switching and moving Aventine assets into the highly efficient unit-train supply chain mode,” said Mark Beemer, Aventine’s president and CEO.

Through a solid partnership with the BNSF, Beemer said Aventine now has direct access from the BNSF mainline to our inner-loop unit-train track, using a newly installed mainline switch, track and a rail crossover built on Aventine’s land. “With our ability to produce 155-million gallons of ethanol, additional economics will be driven by quicker and more efficient moves of ethanol trains into large unit-train consumptive end markets,” he said.

Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said the unit train shipments of ethanol from the Aventine plants in Aurora represent a significant new ability to efficiently transport ethanol to major markets across the southern U.S.

“The economic impact of this activity is impressive not only for the Aurora area, but for Nebraska as well,” Sneller said.

Since 1995 Nebraska’s ethanol industry has increased tenfold and has pumped more than $5 billion in added value to Nebraska’s economy annually since 2012, according to a new impact study by a team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist.

According to the Nebraska ethanol impact study, Nebraska’s large ethanol production results in 96 percent (1.805 billion gallons) being shipped out of state and makes Nebraska one of the largest exporters of bioenergy in the world. In addition, the study said that 58 percent of DDGS produced in 2014 were shipped out of state.

“These out-of-state shipments result in a net positive for the state and represent a direct economic impact by bringing new money into the state economy,” according to the study.

Sneller said the Aventine team has worked diligently to implement additional ethanol processing capacity. “The efficient movement of ethanol to major urban markets helps ensure that consumers have access to lower cost, higher octane, cleaner burning ethanol fuels across the nation,” he said.

Two years ago Beemer and the Aventine management team devised a strategic plan to logistically derisk the facility from adverse local conditions. Tactics deployed beyond the rail upgrades include installing four new truck scales, two new grain-grading labs and additional corn storage.

With unit-train capacity, Beemer said Aventine is excited about opening new 100-car unit train markets.

In addition to Birmingham, these markets include Watson, Calif.; Chicago and East St. Louis, Ill.; and Dallas, Houston, Deer Park, Fort Worth, Beaumont and Texas City, Texas.

In Aurora, Aventine operates the Aurora West 110-million-gallon Delta T facility and the Nebraska Energy LLC Vogelbusch 45-million-gallon dry mill plant.

“By restarting both plants and making $20 million in efficiency upgrades, Aventine has been able to create local jobs in Aurora and contribute to the Nebraska economy while also providing local Aurora farmers with higher values for their corn and supplying local cattle feeders with competitively priced dried and wet distillers grain,” Beemer said.

The company has hired 83 employees to date for an annualized payroll of $5.4 million.

In Pekin, Ill., the company’s headquarters, Aventine operates two plants: a 60-million-gallon dry mill and a 100-million-gallon wet mill.