Aventine ethanol plant re-opens in Nebraska

Source: By Lauren Sedam, Grand Island Independent • Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

AURORA — Aventine Renewable Energy Inc., an ethanol producer with two plants in Aurora, announced on Monday the next step toward growing both the ethanol industry and its presence in the community.

The company announced in a press release that the Vogelbusch Nebraska Energy LLC plant was restarted in June after sitting idle since 2012.

Since the restart, it said, the plant has processed more than 600,000 bushels of Nebraska-grown corn and has shipped 1.2 million gallons of ethanol and dried distillers grain.

“We expect to meet rate capacity for corn ethanol production by mid-August, a further demonstration of our leadership position in the ethanol industry,” said Mark Beemer, Aventine’s president and CEO, in a press release.

In an interview with The Independent, he said the 45-million-gallon plant reopened in mid-June.

Aventine, a private, Pekin, Ill.-based company with locations in Illinois and Nebraska, has had the plant since 1995.

The reopening, Beemer said, was a result of market. Corn prices are currently under $3.50; they were near $8 in August 2012.

“We decided to restart it due to the positive ethanol margin environment,” he said.

The restart is part of other renewed investments in Aurora for Aventine. Also in June, the company had a ribbon cutting in honor of the a new plant, Aurora West’s, first shipment of ethanol.

That plant, however, has been somewhat controversial in the community of about 4,400.

Aurora West was started in February using sugar rather than corn because of a government program, Beemer said.

According to a Reuters article, that put the Aurora Cooperative Grain Elevator Co. at odds with Aventine, and they filed suit, saying Aventine violated an agreement to use their grain at the plant.

Beemer said he could not comment on that case, but he said the new Aurora West plant will likely be all corn by sometime in September. “The endgame is obviously to run our facilities on corn,” he said.

The Vogelbusch plant, which uses all corn, has not been purchasing corn from the Aurora Co-op, Beemer said, but the plant restart has brought other benefits to Aurora.

Aventine has completed $700,000 of upgrades, including a grain-grading lab, two platform scales, new access roads and a computerized system to weigh truckloads of corn. The upgrades, Beemer said, make the system faster and more efficient.

Aventine has also hired about 75 people, he said, with 24 of those employees at the restarted plant and the rest at the new plant.

The results of the restart and the continued developments at the new plant prove good things are in store for both Central Nebraska and the energy industry, Beemer said.

“We think the future of ethanol industry and the two plants in Aurora is very bright,” he said. “The ethanol industry has become a mature industry over the last few years. As a result of an excellent corn crop last year and a new bumper crop this year, the ethanol industry will be able to produce the cheapest energy molecule on the planet.”