The new owners of an ethanol plant are convinced that the third time’s a charm.
“We’re here for the long term,” said Jared Gustafson, commodity buyer for Green Plains Inc. of Omaha, Neb. Green Plains purchased the Hopewell plant last October, and production began in March.
The plant previously was owned by Vireol Future Fuels and Vireol UK, which bought it in 2013. In 2014, the companies began converting corn into ethanol under the name Vireol Bio Energy LLC. They produced nearly 4 million gallons of ethanol each month until they closed the plant in August 2015.
Gustafson said Green Plains’ infrastructure will enable the company to successfully operate the plant. In addition to the purchase price, Green Plains has invested $10 million in improvements and upgrades so far, he noted. “We are dedicated 100 percent to making this work long term.”
Green Plains is a diversified commodity processing company that owns and operates 17 ethanol plants across the country, said John Hutto, the Hopewell plant manager. He told attendees at an Aug. 24 open house that the plant is converting 62,500 bushels of corn daily into ethanol, as well as distillers’ grains and corn oil for livestock feed additives. That’s 22 million bushels of corn annually, and the company’s goal is for Virginia growers to supply up to 50 percent.
The plant employs 53 workers and sells its products in Virginia as well as in other states and abroad.
“We want to get the word out to help us develop local markets more and more,” Hutto said. “This plant is hungry, and we need to feed it.”
Ethanol is an essential component of the 134 billion-gallon-a-year U.S. gasoline market. When blended with gasoline, ethanol increases octane ratings, reduces production costs and provides compliance with emissions standards.
The majority of U.S. ethanol is made from corn, but it also can be produced from other feedstocks such as barley, sorghum, wheat and other small grains.
The Hopewell plant was built by Osage Bio Energy, a company that planned to buy barley from Virginia farmers to make ethanol for use in gasoline blends. Osage closed the plant before it produced any products.