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Expanded Ethanol Plant Boosts Production

  • Wednesday, 21 March 2018 09:38

Post Bulletin

March 17, 2018

By Noah Fish

The first bushels of corn were delivered to the new system at the Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant last week, signaling that completion of its $146 million expansion and modernization project is right around the corner.

Al-Corn CEO Randall Doyal said construction is slated to wrap up the first week of April, and the system should be functional later that week. Construction on the project began in December 2016 and was originally expected to end this July. Doyal attributed the swift work to good collaboration by personnel.

“To get done the first week in April, that’s phenomenal,” said Doyal, who credited McGough Construction for instituting a system that has subcontractors and plant staff working effectively together.

The expansion will increase annual ethanol production by the Claremont-based cooperative from 50 million gallons to 120 million gallons by early this year, making it one of the state’s top producers in the industry. The plant will also increase its annual throughput of corn from 17.5 million bushels to 47 million bushels. Doyal said the move is in line with the cooperative’s proactive history of trying to stay relevant in a wavering industry.

“In any business that’s commoditized, you want low-cost producers, because that’s how you weather the storms that come with all cycles of business,” said Doyal. “You want to be in that top tier, and the folks that continue to operate when others are forced to stop production because of financial circumstances.”

The farmer-owned ethanol production cooperative was formed in 1994 as a way for local farmers to add value to their corn crop. Annually, the plant turns out 132,000 tons of livestock feed, 12 million pounds of corn oil and 70,000 tons of beverage grade carbon dioxide, according to the cooperative’s website.

The expansion consists of new additions as well as the modification of some existing equipment at the plant. Additional fermenters have been added, and the fermentation scrubber has been expanded to operate at twice the water and gas flow rate of the previous unit.

Other updates include new distillation and vaporization vessels and a Combined Heat Power unit, which will be capable of generating up to 40 percent of Al-Corn’s power. The plant also expanded its rail capacity, which Doyal said will allow Al-Corn to reach new markets. The upgraded Al-Corn facility covers 200 acres altogether.

On March 7, three of the original Al-Corn board members — Lyle Kuhlmann, Lyle Borgschatz and Orlo Toquam took part in delivering the first bushels into the new machinery. All three were joined by their sons, who now serve on the board.

“That was really kind of cool,” Doyal said of the ceremonious testing. “And in one case, the person actually driving the truck was a grandson of an original board member. Really just a neat, multigenerational impact we got to see there.”

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