Ethanol plants give Aurora a boost

Source: By Lauren Sedam / Omaha World-Herald News Service • Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014

AURORA, Nebraska — Since the restart in June of an ethanol plant here that had sat idle since 2012, it 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 Renewable Energy Inc.’s president and CEO.

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

The reopening, Beemer said, was a result of market forces. 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 a new plant, Aurora West, and its 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 it filed suit, saying Aventine violated an agreement to use their grain at the plant.

Beemer said that he could not comment on that case but that 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 central Nebraska and the energy industry, Beemer said.

“We think the future of the ethanol industry and the two plants in Aurora is very bright,” he said.